How PIP aids and appliances are used against you and how to fight back
The DWP have been waging a covert war against PIP claimants almost since the benefit was introduced, reducing the percentage of successful claims year after year. Our survey on aids and appliances shows that unfairly applying these rules is one of the ways they cut claimants’ points, whether you use aids or not. We are now arming members with more ways to fight back.
The war on points
There can be little doubt that the DWP are working quietly, behind the scenes, to find ways to reduce the number of successful claims.
Award rates for new claims have fallen relentlessly from almost 70% in 2014 down to 48% in the last six months.
Award rates for DLA to PIP reassessments have also fallen, from over 80% in 2014 to 61% in the last six months.
Yet the law in relation to PIP has not changed in ways that would explain this steady fall. If anything, successful court decisions in cases like MH and RJ should have led to an increase in the award rates.
We believe that the DWP is continually looking for ways to interpret the rules more restrictively, without openly changing them, in order to stop claimants qualifying.
And one important way that PIP points can be cut is by unfairly applying the aids and appliances rules.
Over 400 readers completed our survey on aids and appliances. We’ve used the information you gave us to help update and expand our PIP claims and reviews guide, with detailed advice on how to avoid losing points.
Your replies suggest that misusing the aids and appliances rules is now commonplace and it isn’t just happening on initial claims. We heard from claimants who have lost existing points when their award was reviewed because aids have now been suggested, when previously they weren’t.
The latest PIP figures show that whilst 18% of claimants have their award increased as the result of a planned review, 14% have it reduced and almost a quarter - 24% - lose it altogether.
Scoring points for aids and appliances
As most readers will know, you can score 2 points for many PIP activities if you need to use aids or appliances to carry them out. Aids can be anything from tipping kettles and sock-sliders to grab rails and shower stools.
Aids are a vital part of many claimants lives. We were introduced to some extremely inventive DIY aids by readers who completed our survey.
“Perfume to identify the colouring of the clothes on my hangers.”
“2 nappy pins and 2 pieces of string attached to the nappy pins. I attach each pin either side of my underpants waistband, trousers or pyjamas. Put the item of clothing on the floor, push in my feet and pull up the clothing using the string.”
Readers also told us about aids that we had never come across before, such as Microsoft Soundscape for visually impaired and blind people which gives lots of information about the area you are walking through and warns you of junctions and other hazards.
Or the Brain in Hand support system, which is particularly aimed at people with ASD, learning difficulties or anxiety. It is both an app and a link to a support system provided by real people.
But you also told us about your experience of the ways that the DWP use aids and appliances rules to reduce your points.
You don’t really need aids and appliances
Where you say you use aids, the DWP will often argue that you don’t really need them, you just prefer to use them and therefore you are not eligible for points for them.
They inferred that I did not need aids as I bought them myself.
Or they will argue that the items are not classed as aids.
DWP argued that even though I have Apps for my condition and anxiety that I cannot list them as an aid.
Or they will say that because you manage other activities that, in reality are not even remotely connected, you can manage the activity in question.
Their favourite task in this regard is driving a car, as these members discovered.
“[The DWP said] if I can drive then I have strong arms wrists and grip therefore I was fully capable of using kitchen aids and cooking a full meal.”
“DWP have stated on my recent review that because I can still drive I can use aids such as a back brush for washing; in fact they state it numerous times in the review. I shall be contacting them to point out that the movements and skills needed are not the same. Because I can still drive does not mean that I can manipulate a back brush or clean myself after using the loo!”
You only really need aids and appliances
The other side of the same coin is when you say that you are unable to carry out an activity or can only do so with help from another person.
Here, the DWP may argue that you only need to use an aid, which scores fewer points, rather than needing help.
Sometimes, an assessor will not even take the trouble to specify which aids should be used:
“In the assessment they just said I could use aids to help with cooking”
Tribunals, however, cannot do this following an upper tribunal decision – they must say which aids they have in mind.
More usually the assessor will specify which aids you could use, but often without checking with you whether you have ever tried using such an aid or what difficulties you might have with it.
The Assessment stated several instances where I needed aids and appliances rather than help. They did not take account of my misshapen painful fingers or lack of movement in arms when stating this. Also my ability to used aids and appliances for toilet needs because of pain and lack of movement.
In our survey, aids you told us that assessors used in order to refuse points for help, included:
A walk in shower with a seat - great if they're going to pay for my bathroom to be converted. (Even though the legal test is your ability to get in and out of an unadapted bath or shower).
Potato peeler. I can't as the grip gives me cramp with the repeated movement. It would take me hours!
A walking stick but I have both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis in my hands which makes using a walking stick more painful than walking without one
They said a perch stool to help me in kitchen without realising I said sitting hurts really bad.
Sadly, it’s not just the DWP that uses aids to reduce points. Even some tribunal judges will do it:
The judge in the appeal panel suggested an appliance that I put my vegetables in and press it down, it would chop up carrots etc. I have bad hands, carpel tunnel and arthritis. Together with nerve pain from shoulders and find it hard to grip anything. I had to say yes I would use the suggested aid, but it did not work for me.
This experience alone shows the importance of preparing in advance for the suggestion that you could use common aids.
It's really important that you are aware of these tactics and, where possible we would advise dealing with them before the DWP or a tribunal can even use them.
The Benefits and Work PIP guide has always included a page on aids and appliances.
And our six step system for giving detailed evidence has always reminded readers to list any aids you use, explain why you use them and also to say if you need help when using them.
But we are now also advising you to consider explaining any reasons why you don’t use common aids, so that you’ve dealt with the issue before it has even been raised. Most common aids are listed in the guide under each activity.
It doesn’t guarantee that the DWP won’t still try to deny you points, but it does ensure that you have given consistent evidence from the outset and considerably improves your chances of a successful outcome.
And, if the assessor suggests aids without dealing with your reasons, it’s strong evidence that they failed to read your PIP2 properly and undermines the credibility of their assessment.
We’ve also greatly increased the information about aids and appliances in our PIP claims guide, with a five page section devoted solely to the subject.
We set out the legal definition of aids and appliances and provide links to important case law on the subject.
We list nine different ways to challenge the claim that you could use an aid or appliance instead of getting help, with brief examples for each.
For example, an aid may only solve part of the problem:
- Even if something like an auto chopper is used, vegetables still have to be peeled and cut to a size small enough to fit in the auto-chopper.
- Even if you use a timer to remind you to put food on the hob, you may still walk away and forget that you are cooking.
- Or you may need not just reminding but also encouraging to undertake the activity, so a timer would only solve half the problem.
We suggest that you deal with these issues in your PIP2 form and at your assessment, rather than having to challenge them only after they have been used by the DWP to remove points or when they are suggested by a tribunal judge.
We also look at the three main ways that the DWP try to avoid giving points where you do use aids and offer you ways to counter these arguments too.
And we’ve even added a page on driving a car, looking at how the DWP try to use your ability against you and advising how to deal with this in advance, using the additional information section as well as sections on individual activities.
All of this means spending even more time on the painful business of completing a PIP2 form and preparing for an assessment. But as success rates for new claims continue to fall, and over a third of review claims are reduced or stopped altogether, it is almost certainly time well spent.
Members can download the latest edition of the PIP claims and reviews guide from the links on this page.