Letters seen by Benefits and Work suggest that the DWP may have reached the end of awarding back-payments under the LEAP review and are now simply writing to claimants to tell them they do not have any conditions that are relevant – even though this may be wrong. We are still anxious to hear from claimants via a brief survey if you have received a LEAP letter in the last three months.
In a decision known as MH, it was found that the DWP had been misapplying the law in relation to overwhelming psychological distress and following the route of a journey.
Claimants should be awarded the standard rate of PIP mobility if, because of overwhelming psychological distress, they need someone with them to follow the route of an unfamiliar journey.
And they should be awarded the enhanced rate if they cannot follow the route of a familiar journey without having someone with them, for the same reason.
The LEAP review was set up to identify claimants who had missed out on awards because the DWP had got the law wrong.
However, doubts about the genuineness of the review have increased because of the tiny number of claimants who have received arrears of PIP, compared with the number the DWP originally said would be entitled.
Previous letters seen by Benefits and Work told claimants that the DWP had looked at their claim again and decided that their award would not change. These were decision letters which could be challenged.
However, most of the letters claimants are sending us copies of now state that:
“The main health conditions we have for you on our system indicate your PIP claim(s) are not affected by these changes.”
The DWP said that they would look first at claimants they thought were most likely to be eligible for arrears. The fact that they are now contacting claimants they do not think are affected suggests that they have finished contacting those they view as potentially eligible.
The text of the letter also suggests that these claims are not being looked at individually by decision makers with copies of a claimant’s previous PIP application in front of them.
Instead, it is possible that the DWP is relying on the main and secondary conditions that are entered into the records ‘system’ the DWP keep on each claimant.
However, if a claimant’s mental health was not considered to be a major factor in their claim then it is unlikely to have been recorded on the system.
So, for example, if a claimant had a heart condition and COPD, then it is very unlikely that the DWP would have chosen anxiety and depression as one of their two main disabling conditions, even if it was severe.
This is particularly the case as the DWP were getting the law wrong and taking very little account of anxiety in relation to mobility.
Certainly, claimants we are hearing from who have received these letters are telling us that they do have conditions such as PTSD, anxiety and depression and they do consider that they should be covered by the LEAP review.
But, once again, the way the letter is written is unlikely to make claimants want to contact the DWP, particularly if they have not been following this story via Benefits and Work. In particular, nothing in the letter tells claimants that their award will only go up, not down, if they are affected by LEAP.
These letters do not appear to be decision letters, they do not carry a right of appeal. They are simply informing claimants that the DWP doesn’t think they are due any arrears and if the claimant thinks differently they need to contact the DWP.
Claimants are invited to ‘talk to your carer, family and friends or your support worker’ if they need some help to find out if they might be affected. The letter doesn’t reveal why these people might have expertise in benefits law that the claimant lacks.
Benefits and Work members who receive one of these letters but consider that the LEAP review does apply to them and wish to provide evidence, can download our guide to PIP claims and reviews, which has nine pages solely on the subject of ‘Planning and following journeys’. Members can also view the 2 hour webinar on ‘Claiming the PIP mobility component on mental health grounds’ on the PIP page.
We are still anxious to hear from claimants who have received a LEAP letter in the last three months, whatever sort of letter it might be.
We have a brief survey, just 9 questions, that you can complete here.
The full text of the letters we are seeing follow this pattern, and are signed by an unnamed ‘Office Manager’, although there may be variations.
FULL LETTER TEXT
Personal independence Payment
Changes in PIP law
There have been some changes in Personal independence Payment law that affect how the Department for Work and Pensions decides PIP claims.
The main health conditions we have for you on our system indicate your PIP claim(s) are not affected by these changes.
The changes are to do with:
- how overwhelming psychological distress is considered when assessing someone’s ability to follow a journey. Overwhelming psychological distress is distress related to a severe mental health condition, intellectual or cognitive impairment. It may result in a person being unable to complete a journey.
- How we decide whether someone can carry out an activity safely and if they need supervision. We now consider the seriousness of any harm that might happen, as well as the likelihood of it happening.
Who is likely to be affected
The people affected by these changes will most likely have a severe:
- cognitive impairment
- intellectual impairment
- developmental impairment
- mental health condition
Or a condition affecting the brain or nervous system with symptoms such as:
- fits, or
- faints with loss of consciousness
If you think your PIP claim(s) could be affected by these changes please phone or write to us using the details on the front page of this letter. If we need more information from you, we will contact you to request this. If you do not currently have a PIP claim or award and your circumstances have changed you may need to make a new claim.
If you need some help to talk about whether you might be affected you can also talk to your carer, family and friends or your support worker. Local support organisations can also provide independent help and support. You can find their details online, at your local library or in the telephone directory.
There is more information about these changes on www.gov.uk/dwp/pip-changes