The Early Warning System collects evidence from advisers about how changes to the benefits system are affecting their clients. We use this data for campaigns, in discussions with Government, and to produce advice resources.
This month, we have heard a lot about personal independence payment:
Read more about what advisers are saying and what CPAG is doing below.
Call for evidence in April: we want to hear about any and all PIP issues. Tell us about your cases by completing an online form or emailing the Early Warning System. The more we know, the more we can do.
Do you often help claimants to fill out PIP How your disability affects you forms? If so, you have probably come across the online version (the 'e-PIP2'). As of December 2021 these are offered to most new PIP claimants.
A couple of things to note about these forms are that:
- Everyone has a choice about whether to get a paper or an online version. Nobody should be pushed one way or the other.
- Some claimants might agree to get a digital form, but then change their minds. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has promised that these claimants can get a paper replacement form if they call the PIP enquiry line and ask for one. Unfortunately the Early Warning System has heard about a handful of cases where replacement forms were refused. Please let us know if this happens to your client – the DWP has indicated that it will investigate individual cases if we send details.
Another thing to bear in mind is that an e-PIP2 form is not the same as 'claiming PIP online'. It's a form providing further information in support of a claim, but it isn't a claim form (that's a form called PIP1 which is normally filled out over the phone).
However, the DWP is also trialling an online claims platform for PIP, known as PIP Apply or Apply for PIP. This is separate and different from the e-PIP2, covers more of the application process – including the claim, or PIP1, part – and is currently only taking place on a very small scale, with 10 new claimants a day.
You can read more about both schemes in this article in CPAG's Welfare Rights Bulletin.
If you have experience using the e-PIP2 form, or one of your clients has been selected to take part in the Apply for PIP online trial, please get in touch. We are keen to send feedback to the DWP about how both are working.
This month, we've heard about some particularly worrying cases to do with assessments. In one, a claimant unable to speak after an operation to remove his tongue was told he needed to have a phone assessment. When this obvious mistake was pointed out, the assessment provider – which had already known all about his illness, the operation, and his inability to speak – didn't offer a face-to-face or paper-based assessment, but instead told the claimant's partner that she must become his appointee.
Other claimants are being pushed towards telephone assessments, too, even where this is clearly inappropriate or leaves obvious holes in the medical evidence.
A wider trend on the Early Warning System has been the failure to make a paper-based decision – or a long-enough PIP award – in line with the DWP's own policies, leading to unnecessary assessments. One of the DWP's stated policies is that it will make an indefinite PIP award to anybody whose 'functional ability' is unlikely to change (ADM P2062), yet we often hear about claimants who are being regularly re-assessed despite having chronic or life-long conditions.
We also continue to hear about cases in which claimants feel they are spoken to dismissively by assessors, are asked 'leading' questions, or don't have their answers correctly recorded. It's worth noting that everyone having a PIP assessment either by phone or face-to-face is now entitled to have the assessment audio-recorded. You client will need to expressly ask for this, giving the assessment provider as much notice as possible.
Please consider making a complaint if your client has a bad experience with their assessment. Follow the provider's complaints process (see here for Capita and here for Atos) and if your client doesn't get an outcome they are happy with, consider taking the case on to the Independence Case Examiner.
We'd also encourage all advisers and claimants to respond to the Work and Pensions Committee's inquiry into health assessments for benefits.
Finally, if your client's PIP claim or ongoing award has been affected by their inability to take part in an assessment, you might find some of CPAG's judicial review pre-action letter templates useful (particularly JR56 and JR73). The JR Project is on hand to help you adapt and use these templates.
In March, the DWP contacted us to ask for our feedback on its PIP decision letters, which are currently under review.
Our recommendations drew on Early Warning System cases and included:
- Giving more accurate information about the timescale for mandatory reconsiderations: currently the letters imply that there is a rigid one-month deadline
- Sending a full list of descriptors and points with the decision letter, to help the claimant make an informed decision about challenging the decision
- Improving the layout of the decision letter and the level of detail about the reasons for the decision
- Improving the tone of the letters and the language they use
We will always be grateful to receive examples of particularly bad (or good!) decision letters. We understand that other DWP letter templates might also be under review at the moment.
AskCPAG.org.uk has a number of resources on PIP, including template letters for challenging decisions. You can also read more about the PIP rules in Chapter 35 of the CPAG Handbook, a new edition of which was published this month.
CPAG is also offering several training courses on PIP in 2022, but they are getting booked up fast, so please get in touch soon if you are interested in attending.
Do you have something to tell us?
Hearing about your cases has a profound impact on our work. If you have a case which shows how changes in social security affect you or your clients, please let us know.
Some of the topics we are looking out for include:
Jobcentre appointments – Are your clients being asked to attend face-to-face appointments every week, even where this doesn't seem appropriate?
- Earnings and other benefit income on UC – Has your client had to challenge Real Time Information about their earnings? Or has their income from other benefits caused issues on UC?
- The £20 cut – We know it is being deeply felt by all UC claimants, as the costs of living rise. To make persuasive arguments to Government, we need specific examples of the effects it is having.
Do you need CPAG's advice?
Advice by telephone
020 7812 5231 Monday to Friday, 10am-12 and 2pm-4pm
Universal credit advice by email outside London
Universal credit advice by email in London
020 7812 5221 Wednesday, 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm
Advice for professionals working with domestic abuse survivors
07983 946608 Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm.