The Upper Tribunal recently made a decision (CPIP/1127/2017) that makes it easier for PIP claimants to show that they cannot engage with other people because of a physical or mental condition.
The claimant was a man who would have distressing thoughts when around other men.
The case was looking at whether the claimant could get points under PIP Descriptor 9 (engaging with other people face to face). There are 8 points available if you can show that you can't engage with others because it would cause you overwhelming psychological distress or could lead to you harming yourself or another person.
For the purposes of PIP engaging with others means interacting appropriately, understanding body language and establishing relationships.
The case was taken to Upper tier Tribunal because the First-tier Tribunal when deciding this man’s case had said that it means having reciprocal, back-and-forth exchanges. The First-tier Tribunal said that this counted as 'establishing relationships', even though the claimant in this case couldn't have a normal relationship or friendship with a man.
The Upper tier Tribunal Decision
The Upper Tribunal said that the First-tier Tribunal were wrong for two reasons.The first reason is that 'establishing a relationship' is more than just a back-and-forth exchange. It's more than being able to buy an ice cream from a shop or even small talk with a stranger. But it's less than 'developing or nurturing' a relationship. Also, 'relationship' means any kind of relationship.
The Tribunal said that since the claimant couldn't establish relationships with about half the population, that was enough to show that he could not engage socially with others. The claimant's evidence also seemed to show that he would suffer overwhelming psychological distress if he were to engage with men.
The second reason given by the Upper Tribunal was that even if the claimant's psychological distress did not reach an 'overwhelming' level, tribunals should consider whether Descriptor 9 is being performed to an acceptable standard. Not being able to interact with about half the population may not meet an acceptable standard of engaging with other people face to face.
How Can You Use This Decision In Your Application, Mandatory Reconsideration or Appeal?
If you have difficulty engaging with others, remember to explain how this links to your physical or mental condition. You don't get points just because you feel uncomfortable around certain people or don't like certain people.
It might help to explain to the tribunal what your relationships with others are like. What sort of interactions do you avoid? What level of interaction is okay for you? What happens when you try to make a new friend? What effect does this have on you, especially on your behaviour and your mental state?
Even if you don't suffer 'overwhelming psychological distress' or pose a substantial risk of harm to yourself or others when you meet other people, the tribunal should be looking at whether you can interact with others to an acceptable standard.