I recently published a blog about the lady I had been able to help with her challenge to a DWP’s decision (on mandatory reconsideration), which denied her the enhanced mobility component of her PIP to which she was entitled.
In order to be able to help her I went to the Citizens Advice website at https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/sick-or-disabled-people-and-carers/pip/ which gives clear, very helpful advice which I was able to use on that particular assignment. At the critical moment I handed over to Citizens Advice for the one-to-one advice that is also so badly needed.
I was therefore delighted to hear yesterday from Mary Marvel, of Law for Life, the public legal education charity of which I am a founder patron, who drew my attention to the excellent help they are also providing though their AdviceNow website (http://www.advicenow.org.uk/) which is getting more and more comprehensive in its coverage with every month that passes. Although I have posted her message as a comment on my earlier blog, it deserves greater prominence, so here it is:
At Law for Life we too have been very concerned by the quality of PIP decisions and those made on the mandatory reconsiderations. I don’t know if you’ve seen our new tool for asking for a mandatory reconsideration (http://www.advicenow.org.uk/pip-tool). It is particularly helpful as it first calculates what points the user should have been given, and then helps them (often supported by an intermediary or family member) write a letter to the DWP that argues for each point they should be awarded in turn. If the decision isn’t overturned at reconsideration (and even where there is a very clear case, it often isn’t) you can reuse the letter as part of the appeal form. We’ve also produced a new step-by-step guide to appealing PIP (http://www.advicenow.org.uk/guides/how-win-pip-appeal) to go with it. The number of users (4,000 page-views a month) has been indicator of the scale of the number of people with the problem who cannot get the help they need from an adviser.
You will need to activate the links to see the way this wonderfully helpful service operates for PIP claimants, but I am setting out below the introductory section, just to show that it is possible to explain legal procedures in simple, clear language which intelligent non-lawyers can understand.
PIP Mandatory Reconsideration Request Letter Tool
Welcome to our Mandatory Reconsideration Request Letter Tool. We hope this will make it easier for you to ask the DWP to look again at their decision about your claim for Personal Independence Payment.
We hope that by using this tool you will have the best chance of the DWP changing their decision at this stage. But if they don’t, you can go on to appeal the decision. In fact, you can use the letter created by this tool to make your case for your appeal.
You cannot appeal against the decision until you have asked for a mandatory reconsideration.
You must normally ask for a mandatory reconsideration within 1 calendar month of the date of the decision letter. See What if I’ve missed the deadline? for what to do if you are outside this time limit.
How To Use This Tool
First we need to know which of the activities and descriptors that entitle you to PIP you think you meet. This will also tell you what rate of PIP you think, by your own assessment, you should have received.
We have kept to the same language that the DWP uses to describe these activities and descriptors. We haven’t attempted to turn them into more readable English because we believe that using the same language the DWP uses will help make your case effectively. Remember to use the last descriptor in the list that you meet for each activity as this will gain you the most points.
If the only way you can do something is to do it badly, unsafely, slowly or only occasionally, then select the descriptor that says you can’t do it. Similarly if you can’t do a task as many times as might be needed, or if doing it causes you pain, tiredness, breathlessness, nausea, or makes your condition worse, you should select the descriptor that says you can’t do it. On the next page, you can explain the problems it causes you.
If you feel better on some days than on others, choose the descriptor that describes how things are on bad days. When you are asked to explain why you meet this descriptor on the next page, explain what help you need on bad days and better days and how frequently you have both.
The Government site also does its best to explain the PIP procedures, at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-personal-independence-payment-toolkit-for-partners/the-personal-independence-payment-pip-toolkit but the Citizens Advice and AdviceNow sites have a freshness that few Government sites could aspire to, and in any event where there is so much hostility to the Government’s operation of the scheme, it is surely best that trusted non-profit agencies (like Citizens Advice and Law for Life) should take the lead in explaining and guiding vulnerable people (and their helpers) through the procedures.
Last Monday The Guardian published another article which spoke about the nightmare so many people are facing when they find they have to struggle with the PIP assessment system and its 40 pages of bureaucratic forms:
The 40-page form was a pain to contend with – I’m a retired teacher but it was formidable.
It was incredibly painful for my daughter to go through this process again, and we submitted medical evidence for every question on the form. The enhanced living component was awarded, but the standard mobility component was taken away on the grounds that she could walk 10 metres unaided. However, eventually we challenged this and won. We were very relieved and pleased, but the whole process was costly and demeaning
I called the Department for Work and Pensions to ask for a mandatory reconsideration and they weren’t very helpful. First they told me I couldn’t challenge the five-year award, but eventually I got it extended to 10 years. I’m pretty strong-minded and wasn’t scared of challenging it, but a lot of people might have been bullied into submission
The work of Citizens Advice and AdviceNow in this context needs to be far more widely known – but couldn’t there be cross-links to each other’s sites? I would have found that very helpful when I find myself in the role of a helper.
Anyhow, this way an important part of the future of our advice services surely lies.