Disability benefits: Questions remain over timing and complexity

Why, oh why, oh why? This was the title of a hit song (well in the UK anyway) performed by Gilbert O’Sullivan in 1973, but now represents three questions to which we need answers. And by that, I am talking about meaningful answers from a government department responsible for benefits for the sick and disabled.

The UK government´s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has much to explain.


Photo: The Independent

In January, the DWP admitted defeat in its attempts to change the law to make it harder for claimants who experience psychological distress.

But, that was so long ago, so…


Why has the DWP taken five months to publish its updated guidance for benefits assessors in relation to PersonaI Independence Payment (PIP) and the Planning and following journeys activity.

And, what changes has this updated guidance brought forward? Well, in truth, not a lot.

Benefits and Work’s newsletter explains: “A new paragraph has been added to the guidance for descriptors c), d) and f). 

“These were the descriptors which had the words ‘For reasons other than psychological distress’ unlawfully added to them in March 2017 and which have had to be changed back to their original wording. There have been several other small changes.”

Such minimal changes should not have taken five months to produce the revised guidance. It is ridiculous.

Oh, why?

At the same time, changes have been made to the guidance given to PIP decision makers. Thes address the issue of safety and supervision when planning and carrying out a journey.

But, why have decision makers have been told that claimants who need time to recover after a seizure may not score any points for this in relation to daily living?

This time, the new guidance was prompted by the DWP losing a separate court case. The court ruled that the DWP was wrong to insist that a claimant could only score points for being unsafe if harm was likely to occur on more than 50% of the occasions on which they attempted an activity.

Benefits and Work said: “Instead, the court decided that the decision maker should look at whether there is a real possibility that harm might occur and also at how great the harm might be. The greater the potential harm, the less likely it needs to be that it would happen on any specific occasion.”

Although decision makers have been told that claimants may not score any points for the need for recovery time in relation to daily living, they may score points because they may not be safe outdoors whilst recovering. 

Oh why?

Just why can a claimant, who now qualifies for PIP, not have the original decision to decline the benefit reversed?

This is an example of just such a case, that was given in a lengthy DWP memo for decision makers. This covers changes to guidance on the mobility component, and gives some details of the exercise which has begun looking again at over 1.6 million PIP claims.

The memo explains that, depending on when they were made, some claims will need three different decisions making on them:

  • The first decision will be for the period before the DWP lost a case known as MH, which dealt with the mobility component and psychological distress.
  • The second decision will be from the date when MH applied, 28.11.16.
  • The third decision will be from the date when a decision known as RJ, which deals with safety and supervision, also applied, 09.03.17

Confused? It is complex and may result in more mistakes.

But, what of the example I mentioned? It reads:

“A claim to PIP was made on 4.1.17 (January 4). The DM decided on 1.3.17 (March 1) that the claimant is not entitled to PIP. The claimant applies for MR (mandatory reconsideration) in the light of RJ. The DM looks at the case again and decides that RJ applies. However, the original decision to disallow the claim cannot be superseded on the grounds of error of law because it predates the decision in RJ. Therefore, the DM should give a decision refusing to revise for official error and the claimant should be advised to make a new claim.”

The DWP message is that some claimants who did not get an award but are now eligible will have to make a fresh claim.

Of course, we know that not everyone affected will bother to make a new claim – and others may not realise that they have to claim again to get the PIP to which they are entitled.

When the DWP said it would review 1.6m PIP applications, it didn’t say that it would make life even more difficult for claimants.

Why, oh why, oh why cannot life be made easier?

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor, so cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.


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