Coronavirus update: Following the initial three month suspension, the DWP announced that PIP and ESA reviews and reassessments are suspended until further notice, while the DWP review what activity it can restart whilst complying with public health guidance. All disability benefit awards will be automatically extended at the current rate to provide reassurance to those in receipt of them. If people’s needs change they are still encouraged to contact the DWP to make sure they are getting the right level of support. People making a new claim for PIP can still do so in the usual way by phoning the DWP on 0800 917 2222 to request an application form.
"Before I joined Kidney Care UK I did a lot of work around supporting people with Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claims. Anyone who has had the dense application pack pass through their letterbox knows the feeling of despair that comes along with having their illness or disability questioned. Helping people navigate these applications is a major part of my role as an Advocacy Officer and I’ve put together a guide on what to expect and where to seek support.
Starting the application
The first step to claiming PIP is to contact the DWP on 0800 917 2222 to request an application form. A carer can do this for you if you’re not able to. Make sure you have your National Insurance number and banking details to hand, as these will be asked by the call handler. Your claim will be active from the date of this call and an application form will be sent to you in the post a few days later.
I always advise patients to use this time wisely to think about how they will complete the form and gather any supporting evidence. Ask your consultant or a member of your renal team to provide a letter of support towards your PIP claim, along with any other consultants or outpatient departments that are treating you for other conditions. If your unit has a Renal Social Worker they can help you request the support letters.
It can be hard to answer questions on how your condition affects you when certain ways you’ve adapted to do certain tasks has become the new norm. One way of approaching these questions is to keep a diary for a day or a week and log every activity you do. For every task try to cover the following:
- What task you are trying to complete?
- Are you using any aids/appliances, or having help from someone else?
- How long it take you to complete?
- Are you having any difficulties?
- Does it cause you any pain/discomfort?
- How you feel afterwards?
After completing this over the course of a day, or preferably a week if your condition varies day-to-day, you will begin to see a pattern of certain activities you have difficulty completing or need help with. You may realise that you’re subconsciously avoiding using your fistula arm to pick up items or that you’ve had to stop and catch your breath several times throughout the day. This information will help you form a detailed answer to each question in the application form and can be sent as supplementary evidence if you wish.
If you’re unsure on how to complete your application form, your local Advocacy Officer or our colleagues at Auriga are able to help you at this stage. You usually have one month to complete and return your application form (although this has been extended to 90 days during the coronavirus pandemic).
Once you have completed your application form and sent off supplementary evidence, you will be given a date for your health assessment. For the time being, face-to-face assessments for sickness and disability have been suspended. Many people who have made a new claim for PIP have been receiving their assessment in the form of a phone call to prevent further delay to much needed financial support.
This assessment is carried out by someone with a medical background such as a nurse or paramedic, but they may not have in-depth experience of kidney disease. During the appointment you will be asked questions similar to those in the application form and asked for more detail if needed. As the assessment can take place many weeks or months after the initial assessment, it is a good idea to keep a copy of your application form to familiarise yourself with what you previously reported. The face-to-face assessment would also assess a range of physical movements but as this is not possible over the phone your mobility will be assessed on the written medical evidence instead.
As with the face-to-face assessment, you are entitled to have someone accompany you during your phone appointment for moral support. If this is not possible then it is important to let the assessor aware of this so it can be noted.
You will receive a letter a number of weeks after your assessment stating your award and points breakdown for each category. If you are satisfied with the award then great news, you don’t need to worry until your PIP is due for review.
If you’re not satisfied with the result then the first stage of appealing is called a Mandatory Reconsideration (MR), which can be requested over the phone. When requesting a MR ask to be sent a copy of the assessor’s report as you will be able to see detailed reasoning behind the decision and will help you discover which additional evidence you’ll need to supply. It is strongly recommended that you send further information as to why you disagree with their decision, a letter of support from a clinician or member of your renal team is an excellent example. The MR process is paper-based and will not require a further health assessment.
If you are still not satisfied after the second decision letter, there is the option to progress your claim to tribunal. During a tribunal your application and all of the evidence provided will be looked at by a panel including of a judge and a medical practitioner. The panel are independent of the government, but a representative from the DWP will also be present but they will not be involved in making the final decision. Tribunal hearings are taking place remotely during the coronavirus pandemic and you will be invited to take part over the phone. You do not have to attend the hearing, but you can request that someone accompanies you for support if you do.
Support is available
Claiming for a welfare benefit can feel very daunting and you can ask for help at any stage of the process. Sometimes it can be as simple as talking it over with someone before you begin completing a form. Your Advocacy Officer can use the wealth of their experience to advise on the process and provide practical support in filling out the forms if needed, along with tools on how to provide all the information and evidence needed to support your claim or appeal.
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