Figures for Northern Ireland released last week show that claims for PIP have plummeted and so too have mandatory reconsideration requests, since the pandemic hit.
The figures show that fresh claims for PIP are down by almost 60% compared to the same period last year There were 970 claims in April of this year and 1,100 in May. This compares to last years’ figures of 2,400 and 2,580
The combined success rate for PIP claims and DLA to PIP transfers has varied wildly. In March of this year it was 52%, in April it leapt to 92% and in May it fell again to 54%
The same period last year the figures were: 71%, 64% and 70%.
However, the combined success rate has been falling since June of last year, long before the pandemic. It was as low as 51% in October and November 2019 and hit 43% in February of this year.
So, at this point it is still not possible to say whether the change from face-to-face assessments to telephone assessments, introduced as a result of social distancing measures, is generally more favourable or less favourable for claimants.
Mandatory reconsideration requests have also imploded, following the lockdown.
In April and May of last year there were a combined total of 2,460 mandatory reconsiderations.
In April and May of this year, the combined total was just 250. This is a fall of 90%.
Even allowing for the extraordinarily high success rate for claims in April, it is clear a smaller proportion of claimants are challenging PIP decisions.
The figures for Northern Ireland are following the same trajectory as the PIP figures released by the DWP in June of this year. As we reported then, new claims for PIP had fallen by 40% in April 2020, compared to a year ago. In addition, mandatory reconsiderations were at their lowest since January 2016.
The success rate for new claims reported by the DWP had also risen, but as they explained:
“During the first few weeks of the COVID-19 emergency measures, efforts have been made to clear residual claims in the system from before emergency measures began, giving rise to an initial spike in clearance volumes. This may have affected March 20 and April 20 Award Rates.”
The fall in new claims and in mandatory reconsiderations has yet to be explained. But it seems possible that the difficulty of accessing support during the pandemic, especially from advice agencies, may have meant that fewer people are aware of their potential eligibility for PIP and also less likely to challenge a refusal.