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by Tombenefits

news and thoughts from the world of welfare rights
28 June 2013 at 18:41

Personal Independence Payment 1

The new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) went UK wide on the 10th of June, replacing Disability Living Allowance for new claims from those aged 16 to 64, so it’s high time this blogger gave it a warm Online Centre welcome. 

This week we’ll have a look at what the new benefit looks like and how it fits into the benefits system , when it applies and why the change from DLA. Next time we will look at the claims process and finally the tests for the benefit and some of the issues they raise for people affected by cancer.

This blog is linked to a conversation I am starting as a place to post any questions, thoughts and experiences around PIP so that I and the rest of the online centre community


What is PIP and what does it look like? 

Personal Independence or PIP is a new benefit joining the family of “disability benefits” PIP will occupy a similar much valued place in the benefits system (see below).

PIP is eventually going to replace Disability Living Allowance for working age adults. Children and DLA claimants already over 65 in April 2013 will be left alone for the time being, but there are no completely new claims for DLA being taken from people aged 16 to 64 after 10th June 2013.

PIP , like DLA,  two component:  Mobility and Daily Living. Both components can be paid at one of two rates – a standard rate for those whose mobility and/or daily living activities are limited by their physical and mental condition and an enhanced rate for those who are severely limited.  

That’s all the Welfare Reform Act says about who qualifies for PIP. The rest is in regulations and guidance, with the DWP wanting to be as specific as possible to avoid the need for too much case law to settle the “goalposts” for this new benefit. We ‘;ll take a look at these criteria and their implications for people affected by cancer in a future blog. 

At first sight, comparing the rates of DLA and PIP , they look to be exactly the same apart from PIP having no equivalent to DLA Lowest Care. Does this mean that it is only those of us on DLA lowest care that need worry about the switch to PIP? Can others breathe a sigh of relief? 

Unfortunately is not as simple as that – other PIP rates may look similar but they are paid for entirely different things he story is more complicated than that – while many will come off lower rates, many may find it easier to make the leap to the next rate up under PIP than under DLA. Despite and overall objective of significant savings, some 29% of existing DLA claimants will do better under PIP than DLA. Of course a similar number will get less, while a further 26% will come off DLA altogether. Only 16% are likely to receive the same rates under PIP as DLA. yes many will fall off the lowest rates but others may find it easier to move up and into PIP than within DLA. 


Why are disability benefits so important?

PIP will be joining the family of “disability benefits” which includes Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance and their equivalents within the industrial / war disablement schemes.  They are all there to help with the extra costs of living with a long term illness or disability. In the case of DLA and PIP this includes the extra costs of both personal care tasks and getting around, although Attendance Allowance – for those who first claim after the age of  65 – makes the rather rash and unfair  assumptions that your gadding about days are over. 

The “disability” benefits are not there for the basic essentials or as an alternative way to replace basic income from earnings. Rather they help with those extra costs that people may face during a longer term illness or disability, whether they are able to work or not. What you use the extra money for is of course entirely up to you and many do indeed use disability benefits as an essential supplement to the very meager subsistence rates of basic benefits; a disability benefit – whether Attendance Allowance on top of Retirement Pension/Pension Credit or Personal Independence Payment on top of Employment and Support Allowance – can make all the difference between  “living and merely existing”

PIP, like Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance is not means tested in any way, so is not affected by any other income or savings you or any partner may have. It is payable on top of all other benefits (apart from another disability benefit) or any other income (which could include full time earnings). PIP will be ignored as income when it comes to assessing you for any means tested benefits.  Indeed an award of any of a disability benefits can actually increase your entitlement to means tested benefits such as Income-related Employment Support Allowance, Housing Benefit or Pension Credit. 

Disability benefits can also trigger / ease other entitlements: a carer can claim Carer’s Allowance (and other entitlements) if the person they look after receives the right level of disability benefit. Blue Badges and concessionary bus passes and train travel become much easier to claim with a disability benefit in place.

Disability benefits then can be vital in helping with the extra costs of living with a cancer diagnosis and in promoting independent living. On recovery, they can also help with a gradual return to say paid work. Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance are fairly close siblings cut from the same cloth back in 1992. They share very similar criteria and conditions for an award, which Jude described in detail in her blogs.

The new kid on the block,  Personal Independence Payment has similar rates and does the same thing within the benefits system and by default joins the Adviser’s family of favourite things – along with raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens!  BUT … PIP a very different assessment process and criteria from AA and DLA; more of a newly discovered distant cousin, displacing a much loved predecessor, so it may take time for Benefits Advisers to learn to love PIP ? 





What’s changing and when? 

The old benefits are still carrying on: Attendance Allowance remains the disability benefit for those who first claim once aged 65 or over, while Disability Living Allowance continues for children under 16 and those who claimed DLA before they became 65 but who have came of age before April 2013 – they carry on with DLA rather than switch to AA and will not be invited to claim PIP instead.

From June 10th all new claims from those aged 16 to 64 are for Personal Independence Payment and not DLA. There will still be a few new DLA forms being sent out up until October though – but only for those for whose current DLA award is due to finish before February 2014 (whose renewal forms would be sent out before October), for young people turning 16 before 7th October and for existing DLA claimants wanting to have their award looked at again before that date (perhaps because their difficulties have increased).

After October then, only Children’s DLA forms will be being issued and any remaining forms will be stored away in Douglas Adam’s imaginary disused lavatory in a darkened  basement approached with a “beware of the leopard”  sign on the door.

Existing DLA claimants will only then start to be disturbed by PIP: ask for your award to be looked at again after October and you will be invited to claim PIP instead. Similarly for young people on DLA turning 16 after October 7th, for people needing renewal forms after October (i.e. as their DLA award is due to run out after 1st March 2014) or people wanting their DLA form looked at again; all will be invited to claim PIP. From October, you can apply for PIP voluntarily to replace your DLA: whether because they think they may get a better award under PIP, want to get the transfer process over with or simply like filling in forms.

It won’t be until after October 2015 that most existing DLA claimants will be invited to claim PIP instead. This is not a migration process:  you are not in the system by default – you have to opt in -  and there is no transitional protection should you remain on benefit but only be awarded less than you get under DLA. It is then merely an invitation, but like one from your neighbourhood mafia baron – not one you can refuse ?. If you do after being effectively warned twice, your DLA will just stop, no matter how long your award still had left to run. The choice of words is deliberate and the phrase “we can’t force people to claim” will be cheerfully used as hands are washed of the many vulnerable people who may be too stressed out, chaotic or ill to comply with the invitation.




Why the change?

The reason why PIP is not getting as warm a welcome as it might amonst advisers and claimants is that it’s main purpose is to save money. Undoubted improvements (DLA was by no means perfect) in some areas are clouded by the Treasury’s expectation of a 20% saving on the DLA budget, which translate into a 30% cut for those of working age given that disabled children and over 65s are being left alone…for the time being… There is a case made for why DLA is not fit for purpose and why an extra - and expensive – system of routine medicals is required but it rather confused, contradictory and unconvincing. The main purpose of PIP - even with opportunities for some winners and other improvements - is mainly to deliver a predetermined cut to DLA…


But enough of this gloom.

PIP will be a hugely welcome and important boost to those who do receive it, even if in many ways it will be less "fit for purpose" than the benefit it replaces.

It has been significantly improved in consultations and hopefully as we all learn from experience will become so in practise.

Next time we will have a look at who can claim it and the claims process before we move on to look at the points system in more detail.

May your PIP be plentiful and you have a good week

Tom :-)

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