Personal Independence Payments (PIP) -  An Overview

Laura Banks

20 June 2018

 

Personal Independence Payment is the new benefit which replaces Disability Living Allowance.  The benefit is designed to support those living with illness or disability.  We have provided a short summary of the benefit, its problems and how anyone affected by it might get advice.

What is a Personal Independence Payment? 

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was first introduced in Northern Ireland in December 2016 with the Welfare Reform Act and is gradually being phased in throughout NI until December 2018.  It is the benefit that will fully replace Disability Living Allowance for those over 16 and under 65. 

How does PIP differ from its predecessor, DLA?

Many people who receive DLA will also be eligible for PIP, however it has a completely different eligibility criteria.  Some of the primary differences are as follows: -

  • Whereas DLA focussed on your disability or health condition, PIP is designed to focus on how your condition affects you.
  • DLA had 2 components- mobility and care - and claimants were assessed to see which “rate” they were eligible for – i.e. the high or low mobility rate or the high, mid & low care component.   PIP is assessed in a different way. It has 2 components – called the  “daily living” component and the “mobility” component.  PIP uses a points-based system to see which rate should be applied. There are two  rates for each component-  standard rate and enhanced rate.
  • One of the features of DLA was the “Motability” scheme which enabled eligible claimants to receive a car to help them to get around. Claimants are now less likely to be eligible for a Motability car under PIP than they were under DLA.

I am in receipt of DLA now – do I need to apply for PIP?

Given the changes, claimants who are in receipt of DLA will have now have to be reassessed to see if they satisfy the new rules for PIP. This will normally involve applying for PIP and attending a face-to-face assessment with a health professional.

Those whose claims for PIP are disallowed, or a lower rate is awarded, can appeal this decision and should contact an advice agency immediately for help and advice with the appeal process.

If you are still receiving DLA, it is best not to apply for PIP until you’re told to so by the Department.

What are the main concerns with PIP?

Already, a number of issue shave been identified with regards to the new scheme.  Below is a brief overview:-

1. The Application

Many people have struggled getting to grips with the new rules and have found it difficult to complete the application forms - particularly those who are vulnerable. Help to complete the forms and explain the new criteria is available through various charities and Advice Centres.  This is important as the new points system means that forms need to be completed meticulously to ensure that all aspects of the impact of your condition have been outlined. It is recommended that claimants keep a diary if their condition fluctuates and obtain supportive evidence to send with applications - such as a letter from a carer or medical professional. ‘Getting it right’ at the application stage may save a lengthy and stressful process of appeal down the line.

2. Terminal Illness

PIP currently has special rules for those suffering from a terminal illness which allows eligible applicants to apply without the need for face-to-face meeting.  However, this is only available to persons with a prognosis of six months or less.   

This is concerning, given that many terminal illnesses are unpredictable - patients may be expected to live longer but die sooner because of complications. It is troubling that in a time when someone is dealing with a terminal illness, they and their loved ones may have additional distress of benefit claims/ delays and money worries.

The government in Scotland recently changed its approach to terminal illness so that more people can receive payment of PIP in these circumstances. There have been calls for Northern Ireland to follow suit, however with the current political impasse here, this may be unlikely.

Anyone facing problems receiving PIP when dealing with terminal illness should contact a solicitor experienced in Social Security Law as soon as possible to see if there is scope for a legal challenge.

3. Assessments

Assessments are carried out by health professionals employed by Capita, a private company contracted by the Department for Communities, and some have felt that they have been unsatisfactory. Complaints can be made concerning assessments to both the DfC and Capita.

Advice and assistance with this process can be obtained through an Advice Centre and, if you are still unhappy, a Solicitor experienced in Social Security Law.

4. Reviews

Most PIP awards are fixed term with a review point built in. These review points involve being reassessed even if your condition is permanent, which many feel is unfair and stressful for those whose condition will not change.

5. Offers

It has been reported that those who are appealing their PIP decision have been made an ‘offer’ by the Department to a lower award than they believe they are eligible for, if they discontinue their appeal. This is an entirely new process which was not done under DLA. Advice should be sought immediately on receipt of any such offer. Claimants may not be aware of the implications of accepting a lower award - for example, it may affect entitlement to premiums and other benefits such as Carers Allowance.

What should I do if I am having problems with my claim for PIP?

If you require advice with any benefits or welfare reform issue, you should in the first instance contact an Advice Centre. If they are unable to help you to resolve the issue, advice should be sought from a solicitor experienced in Social Security Law to see if there is scope for a legal challenge.

In some circumstances, cases can be brought as an emergency - for example, where a claimant is terminally ill and a remedy is needed as a matter of urgency.

Those who are in receipt of benefits may be eligible for legal aid meaning that there is no cost to them.

For further advice and assistance, please contact Laura Banks via email on  lbanks@fhanna.co.uk or call us on 028 9024 3901 for a no obligation discussion.