Feedback from Benefits and Work members about the shortened personal independence payment (PIP) renewal form suggests that following the DWP’s instructions could lead to the complete loss of your PIP.
Below, we outline the risks and how to reduce them.
PIP renewal process
From June 2016 the DWP began sending out a PIP renewal form (AR1) which is much shorter than the PIP2 ‘How your disability affects you’ form.
The AR1 form that asks you whether each activity has got:
If you tick the ‘No change’ box for any activity, the form tells you do not need to provide any further details about the difficulties you have with that activity.
The AR1 form goes to a DWP case manager initially, rather than a health professional.
DWP guidance says the case manager “will compare the new information against the evidence from the previous assessment”. The case manager can also contact the claimant or carer for more information, but cannot send for more medical evidence.
If the case manager cannot make a decision, then all the information is forwarded to Atos or Capita for assessment by a health professional. According to the DWP the health professional will have access to the AR1, any additional evidence obtained by the case manager and “all relevant medical evidence”. What is not clear is whether the most recent PIP 2 ‘How your disability affects you’ form must be consulted by the HP.
The health professional will initially attempt to make their assessment solely on the papers.
Only if that isn’t possible will the claimant be required to attend a face-to-face assessment.
A decision will then be made by a case manager, purportedly based on all the evidence, but more usually based entirely on the health professional’s report.
Here at Benefits and Work we’ve had considerable doubts about whether just ticking a box is always sufficient to ensure that a PIP award continues. We have also been concerned about what evidence the health professional sees, in reality, if there is a face-to-face assessment as a result of completing an AR1 form.
We asked for feedback from our members who had been through the process and below are some of the things you told us.
‘No change’ can lead to face-to-face
One thing that rapidly became clear is that simply ticking the ‘No change’ boxes does not guarantee that you will avoid a face-to-face assessment.
One member told us that they were still required “to have a face to face appointment even though I had ticked no change.”
Another member commented that they “completed the AR1 form stating things had not changed” but still had a face-to-face assessment. In addition:
“The assessor didn’t have my AR1 form, said he wasn't familiar with the form and preferred to work from the original application form.”
The result was that even though our reader had arrived on a mobility scooter they had both components reduced from enhanced to standard rate.
In spite of the lack of evidence used by the health professional, things ended better for another member who also ticked ‘No change’:
“Assessor did not have AR1 form or hard copy of original claim.”
Nonetheless, both their enhanced awards were extended.
Deterioration may leads to face-to-face
It also appears that stating that your condition has deteriorated means that there is a real possibility that you will be required to attend a face-to-face assessment.
One member had completed the review form with their partner:
“The form says if there has been no change they do not need any further details as they had already got all the information they need, so we did as they said. We made it clear on the review form that his health had not got better in any way, but had in fact got worse and told them how. He was then sent for a medical assessment.”
Our member says they do not know what information the assessor had, though they did have some. But the result was that the award was reduced from enhanced rate for both components to standard rate.
Another member’s relative, who has a very serious condition, received the AR1 form:
“she filled in the form saying things were either the same or worse than before. She had an assessment at home and it was appalling . . . she went from the enhanced rate for the daily living section and standard rate for moving around to nothing at all.”
Another member had a similar experience:
“I indicated on the form that there had been no change in my ability to carry out activities, or I had worsened. However, I was then required to attend a face-to-face assessment at which the health professional in my opinion did not accurately report my conditions, resulting in my PIP being stopped.”
Things also went badly, though not quite so badly, for this member:
“Completed pip review form. On majority of activities ticked harder, gave explanation, ticked some no change, no easier.”
They were then required to attend a face-to-face assessment and had their mobility component reduced from higher to standard.
No face-to-face but award reduced
One member told us they had been obliged to appeal to get into the support group for ESA before undergoing a PIP renewal. They completed an AR1 form:
“I had stated in the form that everything has got worse, mobility is much worse! . . . PIP have gone by assessment that esa did but I don't believe that they looked at further information I supplied.”
Their award of the enhanced rate of the care component of PIP was reduced to standard care
What is particularly alarming is that our member says that the decision was made without inviting them to attend a face-to-face assessment. Instead, the unreliable evidence from their overturned ESA assessment was used.
Increased award with minimal new information
One member’s partner managed to keep their award at the same level in spite of providing minimal information.
“Most of his renewal was answered with ‘No change’ but I did need to inform them of a change in his medication, 2 added ones and increased dosage for two of them. I also had to tell them that he was now suffering breathing problems which affected his walking.”
Our member received a telephone call from the DWP case manager asking further questions about their partner’s mobility. They were then informed that the claim would be renewed at the same rate without the need for a face-to-face assessment.
No change and additional information leads to same award
One member ticked ‘No change’ for each activity but also copied their written answers from their last PIP claim form onto the AR1. In addition they:
“provided an up to date note from my GP. I also provided up to date letters from friends/family stating there had been no change since they wrote in 2014, along with their original letters.”
The result was the same award again for another three years, although likely to be reviewed again in two years.
We can’t draw many firm conclusions from our limited anecdotal evidence.
However, it does seem clear that just ticking ‘No change’ does not in any way guarantee that you will have your award continue or be spared a face-to-face assessment.
It is also clear that explaining that your condition has got worse does not ensure that your award won’t be reduced or stopped altogether.
There also seems to be no consistency in what evidence health professionals use when making a decision. They may, or may not, look at your AR1 form or your previous PIP2 form.
The safest course
Your job when completing the AR1 is initially to try to convince, not a health professional, but a DWP case manager that your evidence is sufficiently accurate and detailed for a decision to be made. The purpose of the AR1 is to speed up the renewal process and cut costs by nor involving Atos or Capita. So there is pressure on the case manager to make a decision themselves where there is strong evidence to allow them to do so.
This is likely to apply whether you are arguing that your condition remains the same or that it has deteriorated. So, making your case as persuasive as possible, rather than simply ticking boxes, makes good sense.
The reality is that we have no way of knowing what percentage of claimants who tick the ‘No change’ boxes are referred to a health professional, but clearly some are. If this happens to you and you have not given any details of your current difficulties on your form or provided any supporting evidence, then you are clearly at a huge disadvantage.
Even if the health professional ignores your detailed evidence, that doesn’t mean it was a waste of time. A tribunal will almost certainly read it and they will give particular weight to evidence that has been clear and consistent from the very start of the renewal process.
So, we would argue that the safest course of action is to give as much evidence as possible, both your own and supporting evidence, including medical evidence, regardless of what the DWP advise.
There’s lots more about providing persuasive evidence in the PIP guide in the member’s area.
We will be updating the PIP guide in relation to PIP renewals over the coming week, to take account of members’ feedback.
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