More than five months after admitting they had broken the law and would have to reassess 1.6 million PIP awards, the DWP have finally published new guidance for health professionals on how to assess mobility claims.
In March 2017 the DWP changed the law relating to the PIP mobility component. Their aim was to make it harder for claimants who have difficulty going out because of overwhelming psychological distress to get an award.
The changes, which relate to the Planning and following journeys activity were ruled unlawful by the courts and, in January 2018, the DWP admitted defeat and dropped their appeal against the decision.
However, instead of immediately beginning to apply the law correctly, the DWP continued to apply the discriminatory rules whilst they claimed they were consulting with stakeholders over changes to the guidance issued to assessors.
The new guidance has finally been published. However, it is very hard to see how such minimal changes could possibly have taken 5 months.
A number of paragraphs relating to the changes to the law which dealt with psychological distress have been removed from the guidance.
A new paragraph has been added to descriptors c), d) and f). These were the descriptors which had the words ‘For reasons other than psychological distress’ unlawfully added to them in March 2017 and which have had to be changed back to their original wording.
Descriptor 11 d) ‘Cannot follow the route of an unfamiliar journey without another person, assistance dog or orientation aid’, for example, has had the following paragraph added:
“This descriptor is most likely to apply to claimants with cognitive, sensory or developmental impairments, or a mental health condition that results in overwhelming psychological distress, who cannot, due to their impairment, work out where to go, follow directions, follow a journey safely or deal with minor unexpected changes in their journey when it is unfamiliar. A claimant who suffers overwhelming psychological distress whilst on the unfamiliar journey and who needs to be accompanied to overcome the overwhelming psychological distress may satisfy descriptor 1d.”
References to ‘psychotic illness associated with severe paranoia’ and ‘risk of self-harm due to overwhelming psychological distress’ have also been added to the guidance.
A new paragraph on falls arising from a sensory or cognitive impairment, such as seizures, has also been included.
However, the idea that the changes could reasonably have taken five months to consider is not a credible one.
It appears to have been an exercise in deliberate delay by the DWP before they begin an even more long drawn out process of attempting to identify claimants who were unlawfully deprived of their correct award of PIP.
There is undoubtedly a hope on the part of the department that the longer the procedure is dragged out, the less likely it is that affected claimant will be aware they have been overlooked or ignored in the review process.
We will be publishing an update to our PIP guide once we have had time to properly consider the changed guidance. We hope to do so within the next few days . . . certainly in less than 5 months.
In the meantime, we have created a document which shows the changes between the previous guidance and the current guidance. Text that has been removed has been highlighted in blue. New text is highlighted in yellow. We may not have spotted every change, so do please contact us if you spot any others.