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Read weekly blogs from benefits advisor Tom. Post questions, share experiences around financial support in the conversations, message Tom privately or book an online ‘live chat’ session.

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Mental health discrimination & PIP

Started by Tombenefits   on 30 January 2018 at 17:21
Edited on 01 February 2018 at 18:29

Hello all,

All though cancer is very much a physical illness it comes with huge emotional and psychological impacts.

So today's details of how the Government is going to respond to a High Court ruling - made just before Christmas - that the Government had been guilty of clear discrimination against those affected by mental distress may be relevant to many living with cancer too.


1. What's been going on?

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is made up of two parts or components PIP Daily Living and PIP Mobility.

There are two aspects to PIP Mobility, both of which can be relevant to people affected by casncer : 

  - a). the physical act of moving around - eg breathlessness, muscle pain, balance

  - b). the cognitive, sensory and psychological issues in planning and following a journey eg low mood, lost confidence, concentration and the dreaded chemo fog :-)

The ruling - and heavily criticised discrimination that led up to it - relates to the way psychological issues were dealt with under that Planning and Following a Journey. 

The ruling relates to the legality of changes made to the rules last March. But these rule changes were only made in response to previous legal rulings that rather opened up the potential for claims from people experiencing mental distress.

The whistle had been blown on what some argued was a rather covert discrimination, so the Government decided to take the risk of making it much more overt. 


2. So what are the Government going to do, to put matters right ?

The DWP were not at all happy with some of the stern words in the High Court ruling and were seriously considering an appeal. But they have it seem accepted the substantive ruling.  

So how will matters be put right?

The plan announced today, in response to an Urgent Question in the House of Commons is to:

  - work with stakeholders, experts and mental health charities to rewrite the guidance and criteria in this area

  - screen all 1.6 million current PIP claims under that revised guidance to identify those likely to be affected 

  - to notify those that may have been affected - estimated at around 220,000 that their claims will be looked at again 

  - seek any further information - if needed from the people concerned or their GPs etc

  - then decide whether as a result PIP Mobility needs to be included or upgraded as a result .

The Minister also specifically ruled out:

  - anyone needing to have to undergo any new face to face assessment

  - any reconsideration of other parts of PIP or any reduction in PIP as part of this exercise.


3. How will this affect people with cancer?

Everyone's award will be looked at, but you may well not feel a thing :-) Nor need you actively do anything. 

While it sounds good that this looks like a better deal for people getting PIP, there is naturally a fear that loose talk in some news reports about "reviewing all cases" opens up:

  - an anxiety  of having to go through all that assessment malarkey all over again ; and

  - the possibility that a full review could mean that your overall award could go dwn as well as up.

But today's reassurances make it clear that neither of these wories will be part of this exercise. 

Difficulties with Planning and Following a Journey often go with the territory of cancer and its treatments. However , there may quite a mix of aspects to any difficulties you have with this activity:

   - so it may be that your assessment looked more at cognitive and sensory difficulties rather than the strangely separated off - and discriminated against - mental health aspects around anxiety and low mood. Your PIP Mobility award if any may have been dealt with correctly if only by accident :-) 

   - Or it may be that undue focus was placed on the "psychological distress" aspects of your difficulties. In that case, your assessment may have been affected by the now unlawful discrimination.

Time will tell how many awards for people affected by cancer need to be changed. Overall the estimate is around 220,000 from all PIP claimants out of 1.6 million claims.

But if you do get a letter saying you may have been affected and your case is going to be looked at in more detail, then the good news is either nothing changes in your award or it can only go up. 


4. Where can I find out more?

You can see the Urgent Questions to the Minister on this topic by winding back to around 13.50 on today's Parliamentary TV here

I will post links to any helpful news coverage /analysis  that follows here

And I will also post a more detailed Benefits Blog explaining a bit more about what the issue is and how it has affected people. A link will magically appear here :-)

But don't be alarmed - nothing is going to adversely affect your PIP claim or require you to be re-assessed all over again :-) . It may be that you may just be contacted by HM Government to hear something to your advantage :-)

But please do join this Conversation and post any queries or concerns about all this below 

Best wishes,
Tom :-)
Online Centre Benefits Advisor

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