Stephen McMurray, Social Policy volunteer with Citizens Advice Edinburgh, discussing the impact of Personal Independence Payments in Edinburgh.
The coalition government’s summer 2010 budget announced that from 2013/14 new and existing working age Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claims would be subjected to a new ‘objective medical assessment’. This was confirmed in the Welfare Reform Act 2012, which included legislation for DLA to be replaced with a new benefit called Personal Independence Payments (PIP) for people aged 16-64. Citizens Advice Scotland at the time predicted that the introduction of PIP would lead to increased demand for benefit advice at Citizens Advice Bureaux’s.
PIP, like DLA, is a non-means-tested, tax free benefit designed to assist in meeting the additional costs of disability. PIP can be claimed on the basis of individual’s capabilities for daily living and for getting about. Like DLA, claimants can be awarded either or both of the mobility and daily living components respectively. However, PIP only has two rates in relation to daily living, whilst DLA has three.
New claims for PIP started in 2013. In January 2014, reassessments of existing DLA claimants began in the Edinburgh postcode area who had:
- Turned 16
- Had a fixed period of DLA awards ending up to or after 2 June 2014
- Where there was a report of a change of the DLA’s claimant’s disability or health condition
- Existing DLA claimants aged 16-64 who wished to apply for PIP.
Enquiries about PIP have become the most common benefit query seen in Citizens Advice Edinburgh. People are requiring help both in claiming PIP in the first instance and also with appeals.
Personal Independence Payments
Clients are also finding that if they appeal a decision to get their award moved from a standard rate to an enhanced rate they may lose their award altogether. Similarly, clients who consider their condition has worsened and apply to be put on an enhanced rate have also lost their entire award in some cases.
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has carried out research among CAB advisers which indicated that CAB clients were reporting long delays to be assessed for PIP, long journeys to the assessment centre and were considering the face to face consultation of the medical assessment poor. The research also highlighted that the descriptors used in the PIP assessment are perceived to be far too narrow to provide an overall assessment of a claimant’s daily living and mobility needs. Indeed, one female client came into our Pilton bureau with multiple health problems. The client was claiming DLA, though was unfortunately found not to be entitled to any PIP at all.
We would expect more clients to approach our bureaus as more DLA clients get reassessed for PIP, both for help filling in the claim form and for making appeals. It is likely that PIP will be the most common benefit query seen in Citizen Advice Edinburgh for the foreseeable future. We will continue to monitor and report on clients’ experiences with the process of claiming PIP.