PIP claimants with mental health conditions are being cheated out of awards of the mobility component by assessors and decision makers failing to collect evidence and misapplying the law, Benefits and Work can reveal.
The shocking evidence for these tactics comes from our survey of over 1,000 claimants who have applied for the PIP mobility component because of mental health.
A fortnight ago, we published information from the survey which looked at ‘Claiming PIP mobility component on mental health grounds – who gets an award?’
In this article, drawing on the same survey, we cover what PIP claimants get asked about mobility on mental health grounds at their assessment and why they are turned down.
As a result of the information we have gathered, we have updated our guide to PIP claims and reviews. It now contains 8 pages just on this one ‘Going out’ activity.
We have included links to upper tribunal decisions, extracts from DWP guidance and sample answers to ensure that, despite the DWP’s best efforts, Benefits and Work members are able to give the kind of detailed evidence that helps to get the correct award.
There’s also a free, members only, webinar dealing with claiming the PIP mobility component on mental health grounds on 20 July.
Just don’t ask
One way that assessors undermine claims is by simply not asking claimants questions about how their mental health affects their mobility.
I was asked if I could walk 100m unaided. How I had travelled to the assessment centre. I was not asked any question relating to mental health, only physical mobility questions.
How far I could physically walk, how long I could sit. The mental health issues were completely ignored.
This is one of the reasons why Benefits and Work believes it is so important to put as much detail as possible in your PIP2 'How your disability affects you' claim form. Even if the decision maker fails to take it into account, you will have very strong evidence to take to a tribunal showing that you raised the issue of mobility from the outset and that the assessor and decision maker failed to do their jobs properly.
Just don’t listen
Even if relevant questions were asked, there is no guarantee that the answers will actually be reproduced in the medical report.
He asked why I think I need mobility? Asked me if I get breathless or lost I explained I had social anxiety and never use public transport, how I fear germs and any confrontation. Also severe panic attacks. I said I only travel in a car to work with my mum (whom I work with) he didn’t document any of it, his only comment was that she works in a shop with her mum. No comment at all about mobility.
'Can you plan and navigate a journey?' No, my son does this. 'Do you use an app to plan your journey?' My son does this. (I told him I always use a taxi, always the same company, always with my son, only ever go to doctor and hospital appts usually. None of this appeared in the report).
If I drive and how often, if I have a blue badge and if I use public transport, plan and follow a route. I was not allowed to elaborate on my answers
Said that I can drive a car. I explained that I CAN but I DON’T, but she didn’t listen, and it was reported that I can drive, so I must be mentally ok.
Once again, if you have included the relevant evidence in your claim form then the tribunal will be much more ready to accept that you told the assessor about the difficulties you face, but your answers were not written down.
Say there’s no point
Some claimants were untruthfully told that it was a waste of time hoping to get an award of the mobility component.
When I asked the assessor to consider my mental health, they said unless I was cowering in the corner and unable to speak I wouldn't get any consideration for mobility on mental health grounds.
If I could order a taxi and meet carer at theatre I didn't qualify, she said
i was told because i drive a automatic car i wouldnt be allowed the mobility part of my pip claim
This is simply a tactic for discouraging claimants from giving relevant evidence in the first place. Again, if it is already in your PIP2 form and if you understand the criteria for an award, it is a ploy that is unlikely to succeed.
Main grounds for refusal
The main areas our respondents told us were used to undermine their claims were:
- Using a taxi
- Getting to the shops, attending GP and hospital appointments
- Getting to the assessment
- Walking the dog
In fact, none of these activities are sufficient grounds on their own for lawfully refusing the mobility component.
The upper tribunal has ruled that a claimant being able to drive is not sufficient grounds for deciding that they are not entitled to the mobility component on mental health grounds.
The decision maker must look at your ability to walk, use public transport and drive and then come to a conclusion about whether you can reasonably be said to be able to follow a route.
In addition, there are many other issues that should be considered in relation to driving, such as whether you can reliably follow unfamiliar routes and whether you need someone else in the car with you.
But, some assessors – supported by decision makers – choose to unlawfully regard the possession of a driving licence as enough to rule out an award.
Said I had a driving license that I had used as ID
Has a driving licence
Drives a car.
Drives car to go shopping
asked if I had a car? I said yes and she said if you can drive you wont be awarded the mobilty part !!
because I drove a car. My ptsd was dismissed completely even though I had supporting letters
yes - they said that "I could drive a car if I wanted to" (real lawful answer is "no, I can't drive at all because my driving license was revoked under medical grounds.. Road Traffic Act )
Apparently if I can drive a car then nothing else is impaired as it takes concentration to drive even though I only drive local
My demeanour was observed in the waiting area & in the assessment room, I did not appear overly anxious (due to the effects of the temporary essential medication which made me feel euphoric & uninhibited). Can drive independently locally, within 2 miles, to my mum's or my friend's house, as I cannot go shopping without a companion. Assessor said driving requires lots of cognitive skills so I was ok!!
Because I can drive a car even tho I can’t now as my health has deteriorated
Said i drive myself and work full time ,neither is true .what is true is i own a car that unable to use most of time and have lifts from husband or use taxi. not been to work for almost a year.
was asked had I passed my driving test. I have but it was back in1988 when I was young and healthy.
Being able to use a taxi should not disqualify anyone from an award of the mobility component on its own, especially if the reason you travel by taxi is that you cannot plan or follow a route alone. Without asking about this, the evidence is largely worthless.
But that doesn’t stop the DWP relying on it.
She can plan a journey and can get to the shops with her friend using a taxi and is able to attend her psychiatric appointments by taxi without being accompanied (I had said I do this and used the same taxi for years and the same driver - all was disregarded)
Claimed I used taxis to go to appointments/classes so could 'plan and make a journey unaided'. I didn't say this and said carers took me everywhere.
Assessor kept saying I could get in a taxi. I was adamant, not with a male driver.
Getting to the shops, attending GP and hospital appointments
A common method of refusing an award is to look at whether the claimant can get to vital appointments, such as GP and hospital, or whether you ever manage to get to the shops and refuse on those grounds.
Any other regular or occasional journeys will also be pounced upon.
This is clearly unlawful as it takes no account of unfamiliar journeys, reliability, or a range of other issues.
Reason given for no mobility PIP award was ‘is able to travel by self to college‘, This reason failed to take into account that the claimant had been travel trained to do this journey over a long period of time and with the support of parents who remained on call should a problem exist on the journey. Also, what was said at the assessment was not recorded on paper that the claimant could not do journeys to new places by herself because of all the difficulties she has.
because i could go to doctors appointments when accompanied they said i could go out if necessary even though they agreed i find it very stressful and do not go out any other time.
Drives. Goes to GP
I can attend drs and hospital app
Yes said i was able to go to my hairdressers who I have known for over 25 years.
Assessor and DWP said I was able to go out of my home 3 times a week. They failed to mention what I had told them, and my carer told them (who was also present at the assessment) that I have to be prompted to go out, and picked up by car from my home and always supported when out and about also, by my relative carer, due to my autism, anxiety etc. causing me significant communication problems, so much so that the police and social services had been involved and I had to move home because of bullying.
was asked if I could attend drs or hospital app. Wasnt given a chance to explain how I would be in the bed for the following few days recovering.
Getting to the assessment
Being able to attend a face-to-face assessment – back in the days when they still happened - or your behaviour when you are there is sufficient for some assessors to decide that you do not have any problems with planning and following a route.
In one case, the claimant’s demeanour during a telephone assessment was sufficient to rule out the mobility component.
In fact, such a judgement is simply a snapshot of the claimant on the day. Unless it is supported by evidence of your being able to plan and follow routes on other occasions and in other circumstances, it should be of very limited weight.
He got here today. Even though I needed a lift from my brother as I'm unable to use public transport due to my mental health.
Stated attendance at face to face was evidence enough to say no difficulties with mobilising and coping with travel plans etc
I was 'observed' to have left the assessment centre without any mobility issue, and showed no discomfort during the assessment
Although she was tense and withdrawn, she was able to complete the assessment and there was no evidence of overwhelming psychological distress observed. Also the anxiety symptoms reported are not so severe as to be overwhelming in nature. Furthermore she does not have a cognitive or sensory condition that would restrict her from undertaking this activity.
did not show any signs of significant anxiety or distress. No issues with memory or concentration no verbal support from relative I therefore decide you can plan and follow route unaided
only that i could walk from the waiting room to the assessment room unaided and that i was alone, no companion and i could boil a kettle without being supervised
On majority of days felt that I did not need any help as did not show signs of distress,depression, anxiety or fatigue during telephone assessment, and was able to answer all relevant questions.
Walking the dog
Being able to walk a dog was a surprisingly common reason for refusing an award.
But it was clear from the responses that many claimants walked their dog at a time when they wouldn’t encounter other people. Guidance to health assessors explains that if you can only start a journey at night this should not count as being able to undertake a journey.
As with other reasons for refusal, simply being able to walk a dog is entirely inadequate. Walking a dog is unlikely, for example, to involve unfamiliar routes or planning.
Initially I was told that I go out every day using public transport, which could not be further from the truth. I requested the assessment report which clearly stated that I could not do this. After asking for a mandatory reconsideration I was then told that because I take my dog out around my home at 4 o'clock in the mornings, this constitutes planning and following a journey, even though this was the case at my previous assessment when I was awarded lower rate mobility.
I was asked if I go out at all, so said I walk the dog at 11pm when there is no one around and it is quiet. Because I could do this, I wasn't given mobility.
Can drive and walk the dog when I’m not suffering from depression
I was able to walk round the block with my dog every day which i dont and did not say i did.
Your right to an award of the mobility component on mental health grounds is based on legal criteria.
The job of the assessor is to collect detailed evidence that relates to those criteria.
The job of the decision maker is to apply the criteria to all the evidence.
Clearly in many cases this isn’t what happens. The assessor collects insufficient evidence and the decision maker then makes an unlawful decision based on that evidence.
We hope that this article, and our PIP guide if you are a Benefits and Work member, will help you give the kind of evidence that will lead to the correct award – even if you have to appeal to a tribunal to get it.