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DLA to PIP success
“I was receiving Higher Rate Mobility for over twenty years and returned my DLA to PIP application in November 2019. Following a telephone assessment in September this year, I was awarded Enhanced Mobility AND (thanks to your Guides and Forum Advice), Standard Care -which I was not expecting, from November 2020.”

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Dear Reader,

In this edition we warn readers that the DWP is once again ending the claims of people who are accused of missing their PIP telephone assessment.

We reveal that 850,000 claimants have yet to be told that their PIP award has been extended, causing increasing alarm and confusion.

We have news of the DWP trying to punish PIP mobility claimants who manage to walk at an airport terminal.

We pass on details of a decision that tribunal judges can’t simply refuse to consider your video evidence.

We highlight guidance from the upper tribunal for claimants taking a case before them without the support of a representative.

And we update you on changes to the Benefits and Work forum, which is now open again and especially keen for any good news you have to share in these grim times.

 

FAILURE TO ATTEND PIP TELEPHONE ASSESSMENT
Claimants who fail to attend a PIP telephone assessment will face having their claim ended, in spite of the pandemic, the DWP revealed in its pre-Christmas edition of Touchbase.

When telephone assessments were introduced for PIP last March, the DWP said it would not to take any action against claimants who did not attend a scheduled assessment.

However, from the week commencing 14 December the DWP have warned that:

“PIP telephone assessment appointment letters will make it clear that claimants must attend their telephone appointment. FTA [Failure To Attend] action will apply, e.g. benefit may be stopped for those who have been issued with this letter and fail to attend without good reason.”

The DWP have said that no-one will have their support stopped without being contacted first to ask them to explain why they didn’t attend.

But if the claimant cannot show a good reason why they didn’t attend, or didn’t take part in, their assessment then their PIP is likely to be stopped.

There is a right of appeal against any such decision.

Worryingly, Benefits and Work has heard from claimants who never received a call from the assessor, in spite of waiting by their telephone at the correct time.

In some cases the assessor then claimed that they had repeatedly called the claimant but not received an answer.

For example, one member told us:

“Capita did not call. My appointment was at 11.45, I waited and no call was received. I phoned them at 1215hrs and was told that I had failed to attend for my assessment and that they had called 3 times!”

Another member told us:

“Appointment at 11.45am. Called capita at 12.05 an was told assessor had rang 3 times and no answer, no missed calls on my phone. I didn’t receive any and was told assessor no wrote no show . . .”

These are both claimants who, under the new procedures, would have faced the possibility of their claim being ended through absolutely no fault of their own.

There is detailed advice in our PIP claims guide on how to prepare for a telephone assessment, including how to ensure the assessor’s call isn’t blocked, what action to take if the call doesn’t arrive and how to obtain evidence from Capita and IAS (Atos) that will help to show whether any calls were actually made.

We have updated our PIP claims guide to warn about the change in DWP policy.

We strongly advise anyone with an upcoming PIP assessment to be fully prepared for the possibility that they may not get called, but still be blamed for having failed to attend their assessment.

 

850,000 CLAIMANTS STILL NOT TOLD THEIR PIP AWARD EXTENDED
A government minister has admitted that over half of those PIP claimants who have had their award extended because of the pandemic have still not been told.

Justin Tomlinson, minister for disabled people, revealed yesterday that, in total, over 1.6 million PIP claimants have had their award extended. But of these only 756,000 have so far been notified.

The other 850,000 claimants will be notified of their new award end date ‘early 2021’.

In the meantime, they will be left in a state of continuing anxiety and uncertainty.

 

WALKING AT AN AIRPORT
The DWP really don’t like the idea of PIP claimants taking a holiday.

A recent upper tribunal case looked at whether the DWP was entitled to judge a claimant’s eligibility to PIP mobility based just on their ability to walk through an airport terminal.

The claimant, who had a spinal injury, had made three trips to Egypt since January 2017. She had been able to use a wheelchair at Manchester airport, but not in Egypt.

When the claimant applied for PIP she did not score any points at all.

On appeal, the first tier tribunal awarded her just 4 points for mobility descriptor 2b, being able to walk more than 50 metres, but no more than 200 metres, based on her walking ability at airports.

The claimant appealed to the upper tribunal.

The upper tribunal judge turned to an old DLA decision for guidance.

In the DLA decision the judge held that tribunals needed to carefully examine whether claimants at airports walk despite being in pain and that “it is in most, if not all, cases walking that is not normally undertaken” and so does not demonstrate their overall walking ability.

The judge in the current case decided that although the walking test for PIP is different to the test for DLA, they are sufficiently similar that the tribunal should have followed the guidance in the old DLA decision.

The case was sent back to a different first tier tribunal to be heard afresh.

So, much though it may distress the DWP, the judge has found that claimants are entitled to put themselves through considerable pain and discomfort in order to travel abroad, without it resulting in them losing their PIP award.

We have updated our PIP claims guide to include a link to this decision.

 

TRIBUNALS MUST EXPLAIN WHY IT IS FAIR TO REFUSE YOUR VIDEO EVIDENCE
An upper tribunal judge has ruled that a tribunal cannot refuse to admit your video evidence unless it gives a clear explanation of why it is fair to do so.

In this case, a DLA claimant had been assessed as being on the autism spectrum.

His father had asked to submit video evidence to the tribunal of his son walking, to show how big and powerful he was and why it was necessary for his father to hold his hand when he was walking outdoors.

The tribunal did not admit the video evidence and gave no explanation for not doing so.

The upper tribunal judge, however, found that whilst the tribunal had the right to refuse to admit the video evidence, it also had a duty to explain why it was doing so and how it’s refusal met the “overriding objective” to deal with cases fairly and justly.

Although this was a DLA decision, it would be a foolhardy first tier judge who argued that the same principles don’t apply equally to PIP, ESA and UC decisions.

Given that the vast majority of hearings are now telephone only, video and photographic evidence could play an important role in the future.

We’d be very interested to hear your experience of submitting videos or photos to an appeal tribunal.

We’ve added details of this case and some brief suggestions on how to improve the chances of your video being accepted by a tribunal, to our PIP appeals guides and we’ll be updating the ESA/UC and DLA appeals guides in the next few days.

But this isn’t an area we are experts on and we’d welcome your experiences and feedback about video evidence.

 

GUIDANCE FOR CLAIMANTS TAKING CASE TO UPPER TRIBUNAL
The upper tribunal has issued guidance to help claimants who are bringing a case without a representative to support them.

The guidance is very short, barely two pages. But it explains how the upper tribunal should work to meet the “overriding objective”, to deal with cases fairly and justly.

It sets out some of the things the upper tribunal will do for you, such as deciding whether the issues you are unhappy with constitute a possible error of law that they can investigate.

The guidance stresses, however, that the upper tribunal is impartial, so it cannot give you advice on what to argue or how to argue it.

We have seen many Benefits and Work members over the years take their case to the upper tribunal on their own and win.

This document offers some reassurance to anyone who is considering doing so.

 

FORUM CHANGES
The forum is now back after its Christmas break.

Many thanks to the almost 200 people who applied to train to become moderators before Christmas.

We’ve invited 20 people to begin the training, but we really are very grateful to everyone who got in touch. It was extremely difficult to select from so many candidates and we hope people who weren’t successful this time will consider applying again in the future.

Some of the people training to be moderators have professional knowledge of benefits advice, others are claimants and carers with personal experience of the benefits system.

From next week our current moderators will be approving posts without immediately answering them. This will give some of our trainees, and any of our members with knowledge of a particular issue, the chance to respond.

In many cases, it’s moral support or pointing to the right section of a Benefits and Work guide that posters need, rather than in-depth benefits knowledge.

But one thing that we all need right now is good news. So, if you have had a positive benefits decision recently, please do share it on the forum.

 

AND FINALLY . . .
Wishing you a happy New Year would seem, at best, ironic even though this is our first edition of 2021.

So, we’ll settle for saying that we hope that this year will rapidly improve and that you stay safe until better times arrive.

Good Luck,

Steve Donnison

 

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BENEFITS NEWS

850,000 claimants still not told their PIP award extended

Tribunals must explain why it is fair to refuse your video evidence

Walking at an airport is not enough to disqualify you from PIP mobility

Guidance for claimants taking case to upper tribunal

Warning: failure to attend PIP telephone assessment penalties reintroduced

Increase disability benefits survey

 

FEEDBACK FROM THE FORUM AND BY EMAIL
Many thanks to everyone who takes the trouble to post in the forum or email us with news of your success. We know it’s many readers favourite, and most encouraging, bit of the newsletter. For some people, it’s the only thing that keeps them going through a difficult claim or appeal.

Tribunal success
“…I wanted to let you all know that I followed all the guides on here to appeal my brothers award (he got nothing initially). His case went all the way to tribunal. The tribunal ruled in his favour even though I didn't attend. It took me days and days to prepare a response to the mandatory re consideration and to the tribunal using these guides. I went through all the areas of the report and used the guides to give evidence and examples of where their conclusions were not accurate. We couldn't attend because we were on holiday and that didn't go against us I'm relieved to say. However, out of all the stuff we submitted, apparently it was the personal written statement from me describing in ordinary words what I have to do to care for him which made the most impact. So don't shy away from you or your carer writing how your day really is. Once again thank you to the moderators who responded to my many queries as I needed help from them. .The annual subscription is so worth it. I've been a member a long time. He was awarded full care and full mobility... Thank you.”

Thank goodness!
“..this time a fight was not needed. When my husband had major surgery recently, we had a call out of the blue from our county's benefits unit, auto referral from the hospital. They supported us to apply for a change of circ's for his DLA lower rate care and we have just received the welcome news that he has secured Higher rate. Just to encourage all those older folk on DLA but not the max to keep an eye on sadly deteriorating health and give it a try. I had known it might be possible but been too frightened to 'rock the boat', as well as too exhausted from daughter's PIP fights. Happy Christmas to all B&W team and forum readers whatever your struggles.”

PIP Renewal
“I can't thank you enough for all the support that you give. My original application came back with 2 points for hearing aids.This caused such distress as I have Diabetes, Epilepsy, Rheumatoid Arthritis ard Osteoarthritis and 2 discs replaced in my neck … therefore after being made to feel that I was was just putting it on I was then referred for a scan and told results would be sent to my GP. Two weeks later received a call from GP surgery stating Gp wanted to see me,I asked when and was told to come down straight away. Attended and was shown the scan showing a herniated disc compressing the nerve and wasn't told to rest at home …After operation I was left with no feeling in left arm with shooting pains.The operation had occured and permanent damage had occurred.This left me in pain … Although stressfull the appeal awarded me 10 points for daily living and 8 points for moving around. Please everyone dont give up my appeal proves how different the outcome can be.”

PIP – great news
“Just wanted to share this to give others some hope. I have ME and mental health problems and sent my renewal form back in November with a request for a paper based assessment as I can not manage long telephone calls. GP very supportive and wrote a letter as did my support worker. Just had the fantastic news – enhanced care & mobility and an on-going award (previous award was for 18 months) with no phone calls from DWP. For once good news in a brown envelope !! I am over the moon, such a weight removed. Thanks to B&W fantastic guides – even though this was a renewal I gave a lot of detail on the form and it was definitely worth the time (& spoons !) it took. Good luck to all those waiting to hear at the moment.”

It's such a relief
Just wanted to say thank you and what a big help your website is. Received my daughters brown envelope this morning and she's still got the same award (for 4 years) and there was no telephone assessment! It's such a relief. The yearly subscription is definitely money well spent. Thank you.
Alice

I am overjoyed that I can relax
“I just want to say a big thank you! I sent I my renewal form in January for PIP. My last claim I had been awarded the high rate for both care & mobility but only for 2 1/2 years.
This time I became a member and used the guides to answer the questions.
The wait was awful, they extended my end date from the end of June to the end of December. It took over 11 month to make a decision which was awful but I was awarded high rate for both for 10 YEARS without an interview. This will take me to the age of 65 and I am overjoyed that I can relax without the dread of that brown envelope dropping through the door. I will definitely remain a member.”
Claire

I am exultant
“I've just heard that the DWP are going to reinstate my PIP, after I sent the request for a Mandatory Reconsideration. I wasn't expecting it. I thought I would have to wait months and go to a Tribunal (which I did before) but no - they have changed their minds. There was a slight downside, in that they claimed I was living in a care home (I'm not) so they couldn't pay me anything, but I phoned them and they agreed that they had made a mistake.They also awarded me the PIP "for an ongoing period" which means they won't look at it again for ten years. By then, the Scottish government will have taken over, so it is kind of immaterial. But today, I am exultant, and I would like to thank the Guides your website produces for giving me so much help.”
Sheila

 

BOOST YOUR PIP, UC AND ESA CHANCES - 20% OFF ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP – OFFER ENDS MIDNIGHT FRIDAY.
Give yourself the best possible chance of getting the right PIP, UC or ESA decision, whether you’re making a claim, renewing an existing award or asking for a reconsideration or appeal.

Subscribe now and get instant access to all our guides.

If you’re not already a member, join the Benefits and Work community before midnight on Friday and you can get 20% off the cost of your annual subscription.

Just type the following code into the coupon box when you pay: 85492

Claimants and carers get an annual subscription for £15.96, down from £19.95. Professionals get an annual subscription for £77.60, down from £97.00.
Offer ends midnight Friday

Good luck,

The Office Team
Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No. 5962666