If you have a mental health condition and have had a PIP claim awarded between March 2017 and February 2018, you may be entitled to an increased benefit payment.
Up to 164,000 people are in line for increased disability benefits after ministers gave in to a high court ruling that said government policy had been “blatantly discriminatory” against people with mental health conditions.
In a major U-turn, the new work and pensions secretary,Esther McVey, said she would not challenge the December ruling that found changes to personal independence payments (PIPs) could not be justified.
A challenge to the high court resulted in a judgment before Christmas last year, in which Mr Justice Mostyn said: “In my judgment, the 2017 regulations introduced criteria ... which were blatantly discriminatory against those with mental health impairments and which cannot be objectively justified.”
The decision by the Work and Pensions Secretary overturns moves by ministers last spring to stop people qualifying for enhanced payments within the mobility component of PIP for reasons of “psychological distress”. Individuals with conditions such as severe anxiety disorder and Bipolar disorder have since March 2017 not been awarded any assessment points when they have stated that were scared to leave the house and needed support to walk 200 metres, because they did not need a stick or a physical aid.
Similarly, since March 2017 it has not been possible for a claimant to score points in the "Planning and following journeys" descriptor if the reason they cannot undertake the tasks described is because of psychological distress.
The reinstatement of the ability to state that the reason for not being able to complete mobility descriptors will make a significant difference to the chances of gaining a fair PIP award for claimants with mental health conditions.
DWP officials have not put a number on how many people might be affected but a government impact assessment did suggest 164,000 claimants could be affected by the change to the mobility component of PIP when the regulations were changed last spring.
The Secretary for Work and Pensions has now asked the Department for Work and Pensions to begin an exercise going through all affected cases in receipt of PIP.
“We will then write to those individuals affected, and all payments will be backdated to the effective date in each individual claim. I hope that by making this statement it is clear that the government is committed to improving the lives of people with mental health conditions,” she said in a written ministerial statement.
Which PIP cases awarded since March 2017 are affected?
It should be noted that this reversal of last years change to the regulations will only have an impact on claimants that have been assessed (either paper based or face to face) for PIP since March 2017. Any claims that were assessed and awarded prior to this date will not be affected by this change back to the pre march 2107 regulations.
For cases that were assessed prior to March 2017 but a decision on the award was not made until after March 2017, it will be worth checking the decision notice from the DWP to see if the post March 2017 regulations have been incorrectly applied to the case. (the post March 2107 regulations only applied to cases that were ASSESSED after March 2017)
Cases that have gone to a court tribunal hearing are likely to have had the regulations applied correctly to pre March 2017 assessment cases. However, cases that have had an award made to post March 2017 assessment cases, where psychological distress may have been a factor in the mobility descriptors will also need to be examined to re-evaluate the award given to the claimant.
What should you do if you think you are affected by this new decision?
In theory, you don't need to do anything, the DWP have been instructed to commence a review of all of the potentially affected cases and where appropriate make changes to the level of award given, increase the benefit in payment and make arrangements to pay any back dated benefit that is due.
However, that exercise is going to take some time to complete and at the present time it is unclear how the affected cases will be identified. Given the potential volume of cases affected, it would be fair to say that there is a high chance that some affected cases may get overlooked.
If you think your case may be affected by this decision, our advice at this time is to check your award notice from the DWP or the court of appeal to see if you have been awarded points in the mobility section of the PIP award?
Remember this decision relates to people who had a mental health condition at the time of assessment and who could demonstrate that psychological distress, anxiety etc would have prevented them from being able to complete the activity in question.
If you do think your case is affected, you should apply to the DWP office that made the decision. You can apply by phone or in writing. We always recommend that you apply in writing so you have proof. Keep a copy of your letter and a note of the date you sent it.
Your letter should make it clear that you are asking for a;
"review of your award by way of a "Supersession" due to the acceptance of the high court judgment announced in December 2017 in which Mr Justice Mostyn said: “In my judgment, the 2017 regulations introduced criteria ... which were blatantly discriminatory against those with mental health impairments and which cannot be objectively justified.” as announced by the Secretary for Work and Pensions in Written statement - HCWS414."
Your letter should state clearly why you believe the original decision is wrong and it should provide examples how your mental health condition prevents you from being able to do the mobility task in question.
A decision maker will look at your application and decide if there is enough information to make a decision. They can ask you for more information or evidence if they need it.
You will have at least one month to provide the information or evidence. You can ask the decision to allow you more time if it will be difficult for you to provide the information by the deadline. However, they don’t have to agree to this.
it is inevitable that the DWP are going to experience a high volume of enquiries on this matter and we would anticipate that the DWP will start issuing standard responses to requests for a review of this type. Our advice is that you be politely persistent in insisting that your case is dealt with quickly. Historically, claimants that are polite but persistent in asking for a case to be reviewed, seem to get results faster than those who are not persistent in requesting a review.
This story is sure to develop over the coming weeks and we will provide you with further updates and advice as soon as it is relevant to do so.
The BASE adviser team will be happy to answer any questions you have on this matter or any other benefits questions that you need help and support with.
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