PIP Form Help
How do I best answer the questions on a PIP form?
Get help if you possibly can.
Because you need to know where the DWP is coming from and how they think. You need to know what is relevant to the claim and what isn’t. But don’t the guidance notes tell you all you need to know? No. The person helping you needs to have experience and knowledge. They need to know what the words and phrases used in the statements, or ‘descriptors’ that score points mean. Some are defined in the legislation but others are not and their meaning comes from case law handed down by the Upper Tribunal, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
Because people make adjustments to their lives, how they do things, avoiding difficult or impossible aspects of tasks that are relevant to the claim. You live with your disability all day, every day, so no one knows better than you how you are affected, but it is unlikely that you will ask yourself all the questions that need to be asked. We don’t just accept your answers, we test them and probe where necessary, because it is remarkable what emerges, and because we need to understand how you are affected if we are to get across to the assessor and decision maker what they need to award you the right points. The wording in the claim form is agreed with every client, and you receive a copy of what goes in.
Because without good quality help, how will you know what points you should score and what award you should expect? How will you know whether the decision you receive on your claim is right or wrong; will you assume that the DWP know what they are doing and will have got it right? Every client receives detailed written advice on their entitlement, so they know where they should score points and how strong a claim they have for those points. We explain in writing what you can expect from the claim process, what points the assessor is likely to recommend, and therefore what the decision maker is likely to award. We also explain what you could achieve if your put those same facts in front of an appeal tribunal. There shouldn’t be a difference but there usually is. There are parts of the PIP test where the typical assessor/decision maker will get it right, but there are parts of the test where this is unlikely. There are also symptoms and medical conditions that put a claimant at a significant disadvantage. Examples are claims based on mental health problems, those based on chronic fatigue, epilepsy or conditions where the symptoms vary. Clients who work or who have caring responsibilities for others are also likely to be misunderstood. Those with profound hearing loss might have their problems understood but the assessor and decision maker are unlikely to apply the law correctly to their circumstances.
Because if you have to challenge a decision, it helps a great deal if you are consistent with what is said, from the claim right through to a tribunal appeal, if that is the way it goes. The whole point of putting in effort at the claim stage is to maximise your chances of getting the right award first time, without having the stress, delay and cost of a reconsideration or a tribunal appeal, but as we have seen, you might have a choice to make down the line, on whether to accept the first award, or to go on to get what you are entitled to. Take the client who has ‘uncontrolled’ epilepsy, ie their condition is not wholly controlled by medication so that they experience seizures. The DWP is likely to get that claimant’s PIP mobility award right, but we have never, ever seen them get the daily living component award right. They are likely to be awarded 4 or 6 points but not the 12 that we would expect from a tribunal on appeal.
But won’t PIP write to my GP or hospital to get what they need to give me what I am entitled to on my claim?
No, it is unusual for them to gather any additional evidence; they would rather rely on the report made by the assessor they sub-contract to. There are good people doing those assessments but others appear to be incompetent. We get good results on our claims but it does not matter how good a job we and you do if you get a poor assessor.
But the assessor doesn’t decide the claim, that’s the job of the decision maker, so it will be alright, won’t it?
No. Look at the 30 or so pages of the full report (phone PIP and ask for this) and you will see that the first half is meant to be your history – what you told them. Then there are their findings, followed by 12 pages where they weigh up what you claimed and their findings before recommending a descriptor/point score for each of the 12 activities that make up PIP.
We do see examples of where a decision maker tweaks the points recommended by the assessor but not often. So, effectively, your claim is usually ‘decided’ by the assessor. We have talked to some of the people who train the assessors and we are not expecting anything more than a slow and gradual improvement, at best. There is also the speed at which decisions of the Upper Tribunal and the Courts trickle down to assessors.
For example, the Supreme Court decided an important case on social engagement within PIP in July 2019 (SSWP v MM). It adds 2 additional points to the entitlement of quite a few claimants who have mental health problems and we read about the ruling in the specialist press and began to apply it. We did this by asking additional questions of clients, by incorporating additional material into claims, reconsideration requests and tribunal appeals, by supplying decision makers and tribunals with a copy of the decision and referring them to the paragraphs relevant to that client.
It was over a year before assessors were even told about the decision, so what chance do you have of getting what you are entitled to? We prepare clients for their assessments, not coaching them in what to say but making sure that they understand their claim and what that assessor needs to appreciate if they are to come to the same conclusions that we did about where you should score points. That preparation also includes advice on pitfalls that can be avoided and clients speak very well of the preparation and the value they got from it.
But can’t I do a decent job using other people’s examples of completed forms or PIP form example answers that can be found on websites?
We doubt it. Experience tells us that everyone is different, that two people with the same medical conditions will be affected differently. The adjustments that those two people will have made are going to be different and the help they have from others will not be the same or for exactly the same reasons. There is value in such tools and they will encourage you to think along some of the right lines. Some people may feel that they have to rely on these tools as they have no money at all to pay for professional help.
Alright, you have convinced me of the value of having help with my PIP application, but times are hard and I cannot afford to pay for professional help.
Plenty of our clients have only benefit income so we agree instalments with them, with the balance of the fee being cleared when their award is made and they receive arrears back to when they phoned for the claim form.
Where are you based? I am nowhere near you.
We help clients from Belfast and Glasgow to Cornwall and Kent (to say nothing of those across Europe), so we can help you. The form is completed during a phone call. Where this has to be done over more than one call, we can accommodate this. We communicate via email, text, phone and letter. We have also used an operator service to help those with profound hearing loss. There are very few people we cannot help.