Research by Benefits and Work suggests that claimant victories in legal cases such as MH and RJ, have not resulted in a long-term increase in the proportion of PIP awards. Remarkably, within 18 months of the decisions being implemented in these cases, the proportion of successful mobility claims for anxiety and depression was lower than before implementation.
The decision in MH, which related to overwhelming psychological distress when undertaking a journey, was expected by the DWP to lead to somewhere in the region of a 14% increase in mobility awards. The decision in RJ, which related to safety, was expected to lead to an increase in both mobility and daily living awards.
Both decisions were finally implemented by the DWP for new claims in mid-June 2018.
Claimants would have expected to see a rapid increase in the level of mobility awards as a result.
And initially, our research suggests that is exactly what happened. We looked at statistics for mixed anxiety and depression, because this is a condition that attracts a high number of claims every month. It was also one of the conditions that the DWP listed as most likely to be affected by the MH decision.
In the year leading up to June 2018, the award rate for mobility claims for anxiety and depression was never lower than 12% or higher than 15%. The overall average was 14%.
In July 2018, the first full month when MH was taken into account, the mobility component award rate for anxiety and depression leapt to 22%. In August it was 24% and in September 25%.
The something strange happened.
Award rates began to fall. In October they were 21%. In November 18%. In December 17%.
By February 2019, just eight months after the implementation of MH, award levels were back to 14% for three months running.
But they then dropped even lower, with awards down to 12% for three consecutive months from July to September 2019.
Award rates hit a low of 11% in October 2019. This was a lower proportion of successful new claims for mobility for anxiety and depression than in any month in the year before MH was implemented.
The beginning of the pandemic, with the closure of assessment centres and a change to telephone assessments makes more recent comparison of award rates unreliable.
But the award rate for PIP mobility for anxiety and depression in the year leading up to the implementation of MH and RJ in June 2018 was 14%.
In the year ending in January 2020, just before the pandemic hit, the award rate for PIP mobility for the same conditions was 13.3%.
This seems like a small decrease.
But it is actually a large and inexplicable one, given that the implementation of MH and RJ should have led to a significant and permanent increase in the success rate for claimants. We’ll be investigating further over the coming months.
In the meantime, if you are claiming PIP mobility on mental health grounds, make sure you know what the law actually says about your entitlement and be prepared to go to appeal if the DWP don’t follow it.
There is a curious postscript to this, however.
Once the pandemic stuck, success rates for PIP mobility for these claimants varied widely. But telephone assessment have been with us for over a year now, they are being carried out in large numbers and the statistics are beginning to stabilise.
From November 2020 to January 2021, the last month figures are available for, the award success rates for PIP mobility for anxiety and depression were 22%, 20% and 19%.
So, a downward trend, but still a great deal higher than pre-pandemic. This can’t, however, be connected to MH or RJ.
It may be that assessors are struggling to find excuses to refuse legitimate claims based on a telephone assessment. At a face-to-face they could misuse the fact that the claimant had travelled to the assessment centre, no matter what the personal cost, and make use of ‘informal observations’ such as ‘Looked well kempt’, ‘Made good eye contact’ ‘No tremors’ and ‘Did not seem distressed’.
It would explain why the DWP seem keen to resume face-to-face assessments as soon as possible.