The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is having to look at 340,000 people’s social security claims. It’s happening as a result of a court ruling from 2019. It could mean some claimants are entitled to more money. But with this being the DWP, it may not be that straightforward.
The DWP in the dock
In July 2019, the Supreme Court made a ruling about Personal Independence Payment (PIP). As the Mirror reported at the time, it was to do with people living with mental health issues. It wrote that the claimant known as:
MM was rejected for PIP because [DWP] assessors said he didn’t “need social support” to engage with other people.
Instead assessors said he only “needed prompting” to engage with people – a definition that carries fewer points under the scoring system for PIP.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) defended the decision on two counts.
First, the DWP said “social support” meant someone trained and experienced in assisting people – not just a friend.
And secondly, the DWP said the “supporter” has to be present at the time someone is trying to engage socially.
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The judges disagreed with the DWP’s interpretation of the second part. The judgment stated:
Social support is likely to take many different forms, depending on the individual needs of the claimant.
It is undesirable to attempt to prescribe, in the abstract, which other forms of support will be sufficient.
It will be a question of fact and degree, and is something that will have to be worked out on a case by case basis.
Changing the rules
The DWP was forced to change its rules, and in 2020 it did so. At the time, minister Justin Tomlinson said the DWP:
would be undertaking an administrative exercise to check whether claimants are entitled to more PIP as a result of the judgment. This is a complicated exercise and we are still planning our approach. This will be a substantial undertaking and will take some time.
Now, over two years on from the court’s ruling, the DWP is finally following through.
340,000 people affected
The website Benefits and Work reported that:
The DWP has estimated it will be checking 340,000 PIP claims to see if back-payments of £16,000 or more are owed. The review primarily relates to claimants with a mental health condition.
It outlined which PIP claimants might be affected. It said these included:
people who have regular meetings with a mental health professional, without which they would not be able to manage face to face encounters;
people who need the input of particular friends or relatives with experience of supporting them in social situations – rather than just any well-meaning friend or relative – to help them manage face to face encounters.
Don’t assume the DWP will do its job
The DWP will be contacting people itself. But as Benefits and Work said, this doesn’t guarantee a lot:
Experience of previous reviews suggest that almost no claimants will be contacted for further evidence and that very few of those who are entitled to a back-payment will receive one.
Most affected claimants are likely to simply receive a letter out of the blue telling them that their claim has been looked at again following a change in the law and no change has been made to their award.
Benefits and Work is suggesting that you strongly consider contacting the DWP if you think you are affected by this decision.
If this is you, then it might be a good idea to contact the DWP. Because it could well owe you money you’re entitled to.
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