Use of a perching stool or chair as an aid to cooking a meal unlikely to score points for PIP following recent Upper Tier Tribunal ruling
Unless claimants are unable to stand safely for more than a few minutes when preparing and cooking a meal, they are unlikely to reasonably require a perching stool as an aid
An Upper Tribunal has made an important decision (CPIP/2098/2017) which will make it more difficult for people who have difficulty standing to get PIP points for needing an aid to cook.
The claimant appealed a decision refusing to award personal independence payment. A First-tier Tribunal did not change the decision - awarding only 4 points in respect of daily living activities, including 2 points for descriptor 1b (preparing food) - needs to use an aid or appliance - accepting that the claimant had difficulty because he had a bad back which prevented him from standing for a long time.
In arriving at his discussion the judge said
"unless a claimant is unable to stand safely for more than a few minutes, he is unlikely reasonably to require a perching stool.’
The PIP test for cooking is set out in Daily Living Descriptor 1. The test is whether you can reliably and safely prepare and cook a simple one-course meal in a kitchen where the hob and oven are at or above waist height. If you need aids to do that, then you can score 2 points under PIP descriptor 1(b).
A PIP History Lesson - Use of perching stools and chairs whilst cooking
Previously the DWP and Tribunals have assumed that cooking a simple meal involves standing next to a hob for some time to facilitate the process of cooking the meal, e.g. to stir food in a saucepan or watch over food to prevent it from burning or spoiling. . Previously there has been an assumed connection to standing and cooking, which assumed that people who have difficulty standing up for some time would have problems preparing a meal. Where this is the case people have utilised perching stools or chairs if they have problems standing next to a cooker.
This has meant that people using a perching stool or chair because of their standing difficulties have usually been awarded 2 points under PIP Descriptor 1 (b) for needing an aid to cook – the stool or chair being the aid. This most recent Upper Tier Tribunal ruling will bring the award of points for using a chair or perching stool while cooking to an end.
Looking into the future - Using a perching stool or chair whilst cooking will no longer score points or be seen as an aid when cooking a simple meal
The Upper Tribunal has said that it was wrong to assume that cooking a simple meal has to involve standing at the hob or microwave for any protracted period of time. Some meals, such as frying, do require standing next to the hob for some time, but other meals, such as boiling potatoes or pasta, do not require standing beside the hob for more than a very short time, while you are putting on the pan to boil or putting the food in the pan.
The Upper Tribunal has said that a person with a perching stool or chair beside the cooker might not need it when cooking all types of simple meal. Therefore, according to the UT, a person who uses a perching stool or chair whilst cooking does not have a general restriction (applicable to the majority of meals) with cooking, but only a restriction in cooking specific meals that require a specific type of cooking method.
The Upper Tribunal said that only people who are unable to stand safely for more than a few minutes reasonably require a perching stool or chair to cook for the purposes of PIP.
People who can stand safely for more than a few minutes do not reasonably require a perching stool to cook a simple meal for the purposes of PIP and therefore cannot be awarded points for that stool being an aid. This applies even if the stool is prescribed or supplied by an occupational therapist and is actually used regularly.
If you can safely stand for more than a few minutes (we believe it is safe to assume that a few minutes is likely to be generally accepted as up to 4 minutes), you will not be able claim a perching stool or chair as an aid for cooking for PIP.
Only people who have very limited standing ability (or who are unsafe when standing) will be able to claim PIP cooking points for their use of a perching stool.
People who would be seen as being unable to stand "safely" would have recognised and diagnosed symptoms like balance issues, fits or seizures, These people will still be able to claim that they need a perching stool or chair to cook because they need that stool or chair to cook "any" meal safely, not just one which requires you to sit by the cooker for some time.
If the DWP does as it usually does when interpreting a judgement such as this we believe that that DWP and Tribunals will assume that people who cannot safely stand for more than a few minutes to be using a wheelchair, frame or crutches to help them mobilise or walk. We believe that this connection between mobility, standing and use of a perching stool or chair when cooking will be made because walking does not usually involve long period periods of standing still. It is safe to assume that the assumption will be that if you can walk without significant support, you can also stand safely for a short period of time, such as that which is "generally" required when cooking a meal.
This potentially means that the majority of people, who can walk with a stick or sticks, or who have pain or discomfort when standing, will not be able to claim a perching stool as an aid to cooking.
The Upper Tribunal has said that the cooking test is about an imaginary simple meal, not the food you actually choose or have to cook. Therefore, there will be little point in trying to convince an assessor, DWP Decision Maker or Appeal Panel, that the food you choose to eat, or the meals you have to cook for cultural or health reasons, require you to stand beside the cooker for a longer period of time than you can manage without being in pain or discomfort. this scenario is not relevant to PIP.
It’s likely that DWP will use this decision to refuse PIP points for aids to cook for nearly everyone who needs a perching stool, just as they have used another Upper Tribunal decision to refuse points for dressing to everyone who needs to sit down to dress. DWP does not usually apply balanced fine judgements! However, you can appeal to a Tribunal which will apply the right law.
This decision does not affect the use of other aids and is specific to the use of a chair, perching stool or something similar that is used to stop a person from having to stand while cooking. We advise that if you are using other aids and mentioning them on your PIP claim, MR or appeal submission, you should list them as individual items and explain how each aid is used.
When will this decision become effective?
The decision was made by the Upper Tier Tribunal on 21/06/18 and applies to all PIP claims, MR's and appeals that had not been decided by DWP on that date. Claims decided by DWP before 21 June are not affected the decision.
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