If you can arrange for somebody to give you a lift to the assessment centre, that is probably the best option. If you travel by public transport or drive yourself, the health professional may draw conclusions about your ability to walk or do other activities. You can also claim travel expenses, ask the receptionist at the assessment centre for a travel expenses claim form and pre-paid self-addressed envelope. Include all your tickets and receipts with the claim form.
The health professional will probably ask you about activities which are not directly included in the assessment, such as whether you work, do housework, go shopping, take part in hobbies or look after children or pets. Your answers to these questions may reveal evidence about whether or not you have difficulty with things like bending, walking or using your hands. This can help to show whether you are likely to have difficulty with the other activities included in the assessment. If you have had to give up hobbies or activities you previously enjoyed, or if you can only take part in social and leisure activities occasionally because of your health condition, make sure you explain this.
When answering the health professional’s questions, remember to explain if you have difficulties with performing the relevant activities reliably. Don’t get caught out by leading questions into giving an overly optimistic picture of your abilities. For example, if you have difficulty walking then, in your case, ‘walking the dog’ might involve walking a few metres from a car park to a park bench and then letting the dog run around while you sit and rest. Or perhaps you have to walk to collect your children from school because there is nobody else to do it, but the walk is very slow and painful for you and you have to rest for a long time afterwards. Explain this, and avoid leaving the impression that you can walk a long distance without difficulty if you really can’t.
The health professional may carry out a physical examination or do non-invasive tests such as testing your blood pressure. They may ask you to perform certain tasks or movements, such as raising a leg or bending over. However you should not be forced to do anything which would cause you pain. They won’t ask you to do a formal walking test, but they are likely to observe how you walk from the waiting room to the consultation room and how you move around during the consultation.
Throughout the consultation the health professional will also observe how you cope with activities such as removing your coat, handling your bag and holding a conversation. If you are having a consultation at your home, they will notice the home environment and any aids and adaptations. If they are in your home they shouldn’t look into rooms that they haven’t been invited to enter.
If you bring any written evidence to a face-to-face consultation, the health professional should take a copy of it and take it into account when completing their assessment report.
Waiting for the response
It can take between six to eight weeks to find out the result of a PIP assessment. However, if you need to find out more about the status of your claim, then the contact info for ongoing claims is 0345 850 3322.
PIP is made up of 2 components (parts) called daily living and mobility, and each can be paid at either a standard or enhanced rate.
If you are turned down for PIP or if you receive an award lower than you think is correct, you can appeal the DWP’s decision.
The appeal process starts with asking for a Mandatory Reconsideration within 30 days of receiving your decision. You can apply for a reconsideration by writing a letter to the DWP explaining why you disagree with the decision.
You need to give specific reasons why you disagree with the decision. Use your decision letter, statement of reasons and medical assessment report to make a note of each of the statements you disagree with and why. Give facts, examples and medical evidence (if available) to support what you’re saying.
The DWP doesn’t have to make the decision within a specific timescale and sometimes it can take several months to get your decision letter – this letter is called a ‘mandatory reconsideration notice’. You’ll be sent 2 copies – you’ll need to send 1 off if you need to go to the next stage of appeal.
If the DWP changes their decision, you’ll start getting your PIP payment straight away. Your payment for PIP will start from the date of the original decision. If you’re challenging the rate you’ve been put on and the DWP changes the decision, they’ll pay you the difference for the time it takes them to make the decision.
Don’t be put off if they don’t change the decision, not many decisions are overturned at this stage. More decisions are changed after the second stage of the challenge – if your mandatory reconsideration is turned down you can appeal to a tribunal.
Appeal to tribunal
DWP will look at your claim and tell you their new decision.
- You have a month to ask for an appeal if you are still unhappy.
- This must be in writing and it’s best to appeal using form SSCS1 (pdf download). Download the pdf of guidance notes to help you.
- You must state your reason for the appeal clearly and forward any supporting evidence as soon as possible – do not wait for the hearing.
You can download Form SSCS1 (pdf)
Section 5 is where you must state your reasons for your appeal. You must write down the reasons why you think the decision is wrong. Your reasons do not have to be lengthy or written in legal language, but you need to say more than just ‘I disagree’. Explain simply why you think the decision is incorrect and what you believe the correct decision should be.
Send your appeal to HM Courts and Tribunals Service. If you live in England or Wales you should send your appeal to:
HMCTS SSCS Appeals Centre
PO Box 1203
Telephone: 0300 123 1142
Don’t forget to sign the form and enclose your mandatory reconsideration decision letter.
The latest government statistics show that more than half of PIP decisions are changed after mandatory reconsideration or an appeal to a tribunal, so do challenge the decision if you think it’s wrong.
The DWP will look at their decision again once they have received your appeal. They can revise your award at any point up until the hearing if for example, you send in new evidence.
You will be told the date of the hearing 14 days in advance. You should receive directions to the venue with transport links, accessibility information and also expenses. Review your paper evidence and think about what extra evidence you might need. Attending the hearing and telling the panel about your disability counts as evidence.
You can send in evidence at any point up until the hearing but don’t save it all up for the hearing as this could delay matters.
All papers relating to the appeal will be sent to the panel members before the hearing. This will give them the chance to identify if there are any problems or issues that may affect the hearing from going ahead.
Going to tribunal hearing
Take someone with you. This can be your representative if you managed to find one, could be your partner, a family member or a friend.
The tribunal will be made up of a tribunal judge, a doctor and a disability specialist. All are independent from the Department of Works and Pensions. Their role is to check the DWP’s decision and to ensure that the law has been applied correctly.
This is your chance to talk about how your disability affects you, how you feel you meet the descriptors and anything else that went wrong during the assessment process. Normally tribunals will make a decision on the day and will confirm this in writing but sometimes the decision will be made and then sent to you at a later date.
If you’re unhappy with the decision made by the first-tier tribunal, there is a further appeals process. You can appeal to the Upper Tribunal if you believe there has been an error in law.
This is a very complex area and you will need the help of a solicitor or a welfare benefits specialist. There may be some legal aid available to help you with your case.
I know this has been a long and complex post but it is a long and complex process, I hope it has helped. Lots of the information here has come from CAB, Crohns and Colitis UK and Scope, so massive thanks to them all for sharing such valuable resources.