The DWP may be depriving 150,000 PIP claimants with mental health conditions of arrears of thousands of pounds each. One claimant who fought back, however, forced the department to hand over £12,000 in back payments.
The DWP has paid out £18 million so far to PIP claimants who lost out because of a legal error relating to the PIP mobility component, but this figure is a tiny fraction of the £3.7 billion the department said that putting right the error would cost by 2022.
The payments are made under what is known as the LEAP review, which began in June 2018 and involves the DWP looking through the cases of approximately 1.6 million PIP claimants.
In a decision known as MH, it was found that the DWP had been misapplying the law in relation to psychological distress and following the route of a journey.
Claimants should have been awarded the standard rate of PIP mobility if, because of overwhelming psychological distress, they needed someone with them to follow the route of an unfamiliar journey or if they could not undertake a journey at all.
And they should have been awarded the enhanced rate if they could not follow the route of a familiar journey without having someone with them for the same reason.
Instead the DWP had been awarding just 4 points, not enough for any award of the mobility component at all.
According to the DWP as part of the LEAP review:
“ We are looking at all current PIP claims to check if this change means you may be eligible for more support under PIP.
“We are also looking again at claims we decided on or after 28 November 2016 where we did not award PIP.
“We will not look again at your PIP claim if you have been getting the enhanced rate of both the daily living and mobility parts of PIP since 28 November 2016.
The LEAP review also relates to another case called RJ, in which the DWP was found to have got the law wrong in relation to safety and supervision. That issue is not covered in this article because, as you will see below, the DWP gave precise estimates for the number of claimants who would be affected by MH but they have not done so for RJ.
164,000 better-off claimants
In February 2017, the DWP published a document entitled ‘Equality Analysis PIP Assessment Criteria’ as part of its attempt to change the law in order to overturn the decision in MH.
The attempt failed, but the document helpfully set out how many claimants would be likely to be eligible for a higher award if the law relating to the MH decision was not changed.
They estimated that of the PIP caseload at December 2016, prior to the judgement, 16% of the would be affected because they had a condition most likely to be relevant and scored mobility descriptor 1b. They gave a breakdown of numbers as follows:
71,500 would move from no award to enhanced mobility
21,000 would move from standard mobility to enhanced mobility.
So a total of 164,000 claimants would be better-off. The cost for this and a separate error involving just 3,000 claimants was estimated to be £550 million for 2017/18, rising to a total of almost £3.7 billion for the whole period from 2017 to 2022, including back-payments and ongoing awards.
But according to the latest DWP figures, with 900,000 out of approximately 1.6 million MH cases already assessed, just 3,700 payments have been made at a cost of less than £19 million in arrears payments.
If the current rate of awards continues, fewer than 7,000 claimants will get an award. That is less than half of one percent as opposed to around 16% that the DWP experts had predicted.
We have heard from a claimant who contacted the DWP to ask for his award to be reviewed under the LEAP process.
Andrew (not his real name) has a severe mental health condition and is always accompanied in public as he is a danger to himself and others.
At his most recent planned PIP review he was awarded the enhanced mobility component on these grounds, and his condition has not changed for many years.
In early 2020 Andrew wrote to the DWP asking them to carry out a LEAP review, because he considered that he should be eligible for a back-payment of PIP.
Several months later, the DWP finally replied stating a review had been carried out over a year ago and enclosing a letter they claimed had been sent to him at the time. The letter explained there had been no change in his award as a result of the review.
Andrew replied saying that he had never received the letter and asked the DWP to look at the decision again.
In January 2021 Andrew applied to a tribunal after two mandatory reconsideration requests were simply ignored by the DWP.
When the case was accepted by HMCTS the DWP initially argued that it was out of time.
Andrew responded that he had never received the original letter, so the clock did not start ticking until he received the much later response to his request.
Andrew also raised the issue of the tiny proportion of reviewed cases getting an award, suggesting that no reasonable person acting reasonably could have made so few awards.
Suddenly the DWP agreed to carry out a mandatory reconsideration, thus causing the appeal to be struck out.
Soon after, £12,000 in back payments of enhanced rate PIP mobility component were paid into Andrew’s account.
What you can do
Andrew was fortunate to have someone supporting him throughout this legal process. Many claimants will have no access to help.
They will have had to survive for years on much less money than they were entitled to and are now being cynically deprived of a back-dated payment which could be life-changing.
Here at Benefits and Work we want to find out more about what is happening to claimants under what appears to be a bogus and potentially unlawful review process and try to see if there is a way to challenge it.
We have created a brief survey which we’re asking you to complete if you have received news from the DWP that your LEAP review has been unsuccessful.
You can complete the survey anonymously or leave your email address if you are happy to be contacted by us if we need further information.