42,000 claimants lost their PIP award in 2021 because they allegedly failed to return their AR1 PIP review form, the DWP revealed this week. This is an unexplained increase of almost 300% in just two years.
Tom Pursglove, DWP minister for disabled people, published the figures in response to a written parliamentary question.
The figures show the number of claims disallowed each year for non-return of the AR1 review form:
- 7,500 claims were disallowed in 2017
- 15,800 claims were disallowed in 2018
- 14,100 claims were disallowed in 2019
- 25,400 claims were disallowed in 2020
- 42,100 claims were disallowed in 2021
It is not made clear from the written answer whether non-return includes forms that were returned late. It is also not clear how many people challenged the decision that they had failed to return their form on time.
At Benefits and Work our concern is that the number of claimants allegedly failing to return their forms seems to be increasing at an extraordinary rate, far outstripping any rises in awards that had taken place at the time.
We know that the DWP’s post handling and call management is dire and getting ever worse. It seems very possible that many disallowed claimants are returning their forms on time, but the DWP is either losing them or taking far too long before recording that they have been received.
We have no way of knowing how many of the 42,000 claimants appealed or how many simply gave up in despair, even though they knew they had returned their form on time.
Other claimants may have failed to return the review form because of the effects of a physical or mental health condition.
A tragic example of this is the case of Laura Winham, who we wrote about just last month.
Laura had schizophrenia and had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act in the past.
In 2016, the DWP contacted Laura to say that she was being transferred from DLA to PIP and that she had to apply for PIP or her DLA would stop.
Laura failed to respond and, after several written reminders, her DLA was stopped. In spite of Laura having a severe mental illness and very clearly being a vulnerable person, no attempt was made by the DWP to check on her wellbeing or her ability to take part in the transfer process before her money was cut off.
In May 2021, Laura’s body was discovered after her family visited to tell her of the death of her father and looked through the letterbox. The police found her mummified and skeletal body when they forced entry. There were unopened bills from creditors and markings on the calendar which stopped in November 2017.
One of the last ones read “I need help”.
Yet in the same written answer which revealed the number of claimants whose PIP had been stopped, the minister claimed that vulnerable claimants do not have their claim stopped for failure to return their form.
According to Pursglove, claimants with serious mental health or cognitive conditions who have difficulty communicating or engaging with the process, have their files ‘watermarked’ as Additional Support (AS), although they are not classed as vulnerable. These claimants will be asked to attend a PIP assessment even if they fail to return their form.
Claimants who are identified as vulnerable due to their condition or their circumstances have an Additional Customer Support (ACS) watermark placed on their files. Some claimants have both. These claimants are “afforded additional sensitivity and protection at all stages of their claim, not just at the point of disallowance for failing to return a claim form.”
We will be updatng our PIP claims and reviews guide to make readers, and support workers, aware that they may be entitled to this ‘extra sensitivity’ if they do find themselves in difficulty. There is no reason why claimants should not make a data protection request for details of any AS or ACS watermark on their files.
We have also updated our guide to PIP claims and reviews guide to warn people of the rising number of allegedly non-returned forms and to encourage readers to take steps to protect themselves.