An upper tribunal judge has held that fear of dogs, if linked to a disability or health condition, may be relevant to a personal independence payment (PIP) mobility award.

The claimant listed her conditions as: autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia and depression.

In her PIP questionnaire the claimant wrote:

“I am able to plan routes and travel in familiar routes. However, I have a very severe Phobia of Dogs which is a result of sensory issues from my ASD which prevents me from undertaking journeys which are unfamiliar without someone to go with me or by travelling via car. This is due to my very severe anxiety that a dog may be present in the unfamiliar route”.

The claimant was awarded zero points for the daily living and for the mobility component of PIP.

The claimant appealed and was awarded 5 points for daily living by the first tier tribunal, not enough for an award, and still got zero points for mobility.

The tribunal noted that the claimant had a degree in theoretical physics and was studying law. It appeared to find much of her evidence unconvincing and overstated.

The tribunal noted that the claimant drives her son to school, uses trains and trams and goes out alone most days. They stated that they had difficulty accepting her argument that she could not go anywhere unaccompanied in case there was a dog off the lead and that she would not suffer overwhelming psychological distress. The tribunal held that the claimant suffered from anxiety rather than depression and her fear was of dogs running free, not of going to unfamiliar places.

The claimant appealed to the upper tribunal.

The upper tribunal judge found that the first tier tribunal had not made it clear why they had reached the decision they did: was it because they found the claimant’s evidence to be unconvincing, that the claimant’s fear did not amount to overwhelming psychological distress or because they considered that fear of dogs was not relevant to the descriptors.

The judge held that the claimants fear of dogs could fall within the scope of descriptor 1d: Cannot follow the route of an unfamiliar journey without another person, assistance dog or orientation aid, where the fear was linked to a physical or mental health condition, in this case autism. This would be the case where the fear was so great as to lead to overwhelming psychological distress when the claimant was unaccompanied, but the presence of another person would allow them to follow the route.

The judge upheld the claimant’s appeal and sent the case back to be heard by a new tribunal.

The principle in this case could be applied to other extreme fears that claimants may have in relation to following journeys.

You can download a copy of EE v SSWP (CPIP) [2021] UKUT 17 (AAC) from this link.


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