On the 24/3/2020 the government placed into effect, for an initial period of 3 months, temporary measures for the suspension of reviews and reassessments of all benefits including Universal Credit (UC), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Attendance Allowance (AA), Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) and PIP. This meant that no face to face assessments would take place and recipients of such benefits were reassured that they would not see any change or discontinuation of their payments during this period.
However, at Raise, several of our clients’ PIP claims have been stopped. This has happened with no notification or warning. The impact of this on these vulnerable and most in need clients is devastating. This had led to desperate financial hardship due to the loss of much needed income. Not only has their PIP stopped but the knock on effects can be catastrophic. Other supplementary benefits could reduce or stop altogether, such as Carer’s Allowance, Severe Disability Premium (SDP) and further Disability Premiums.
The group of clients affected are those on PIP whose benefit was awarded by a Tribunal. These are classed as fixed term awards so they have an end date. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are unable to review such decisions as they are made by a separate body; Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service (HMCTS). As such a claimant with a fixed term award is normally asked to make a new claim for PIP and decisions are made on these before the fixed term award ends. During lockdown the DWP has not been able to make decisions on new claims because assessments have been suspended. Additionally the DWP has insisted, until very recently, that these claims cannot be reviewed, please see Rightsnet thread for further discussion of this nationwide problem: https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/forums/viewthread/15981/ One of our caseworkers has contacted Paula Barker, MP for Wavertree to ask for help with this issue to try and resolve a desperate situation one of our clients found themselves in, see case study below. As a direct result of this action the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Justin Tomlinson has rectified this problem. See case study below for further details.
Our client is a single parent with a number of serious health conditions; both physical and mental. Last year, Raise assisted with a claim for PIP, which was refused. We appealed the decision and represented the client at Tribunal. The appeal was successful and the client was awarded Standard Daily Living and Standard Mobility for the period 05.04.17 – 04.04.20, an £83.30 increase to his weekly income. As a result of this award, the client became eligible for a SDP to be included in his ESA. He lived alone, nobody was paid Carer’s Allowance for looking after him, and his PIP award meant that he was now in receipt of a qualifying benefit. His income increased by a further £66.95 per week.
Due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, the Government had announced that from 24.03.20 all existing awards of PIP and ESA that were due to be reviewed would be automatically extended for 6 months. This was to allow sufficient time for new assessments and decisions to be made. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case for our client. He was advised that his PIP award would end on 04.04.20. This had drastic knock on effects; he now no longer qualified for the SDP and in total his weekly income dropped by a staggering £150.25 per week. Such a significant drop in income would be difficult at any time, but given the current crisis, our client was in a desperate situation.
When our client was awarded PIP at the Tribunal, they had awarded it as a ‘fixed term award’. This meant that he was not eligible for a review, and subsequently meant that the DWP decided he did not fall under the automatic extension that had been granted. Our client had no protection against his claim ending on 04.04.20 and could only make a new claim before this happened. This was done, and the DWP received his claim in February. Our client now had to wait for his medical assessment. However, due to Covid-19, these were suspended. Our client’s PIP claim ended, but his new claim could not advance. Having done all he could and with no options of how to move forward, our severely disabled client was left £150.25 per week worse off.
RAISE brought the matter to the attention of our client’s MP, Paula Barker (MP for Wavertree) who contacted the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Justin Tomlinson, on behalf of our client. On 12.05.20, as a direct result of this action:
The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Justin Tomlinson has confirmed that short, fixed-term awards of personal independence payment (PIP) that were due to expire during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will be automatically extended.
Responding to a question in Parliament yesterday, Mr Tomlinson acknowledged that there had been an issue for those on fixed-term, short awards, but that –
‘… we have now addressed that, and those claimants will continue to get an automatic six months’ extension if it is due in the next three months.’
Justin Tomlinson’s Office also looked at our client’s PIP claim. The claim has been reinstated and increased accordingly which is a great relief during what can only be described as an extremely stressful time for him and his family. The caseworker has worked to not only improve our client’s situation but to involve the local MP, Paula Barker, to address a social injustice that had gone overlooked. The impact of this work is best summed up by the client himself “I would be lost without Raise. They are a very important part of my life and I wouldn’t survive without them. They’re amazing and it is so appreciated.”