Although new claims for benefits have been unaffected, the Coronavirus outbreak has impacted on assessments and reviews for the following disability benefits:
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- Attendance Allowance (AA)
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
See bottom of this page for some basic information on these benefits.
Reviews of existing awards
PIP, DLA and AA awards are normally made for a fixed period.
Before the award is due to end, the claimant is normally asked to complete a review claim form so that the DWP can decide whether to make another award. If the claimant does not return the review claim form, their award will normally come to an end.
For DLA and AA, the review form is normally sent out around 4-6 months before the award is due to end. If the form is not sent back, the award will not be renewed, and it will end on the date it was due to end.
Most PIP awards have a ‘review date’ 12 months before the end date of the award period – when the DWP to send out a review form. If the claimant fails to return the review form (or the outcome of the review is that they are no longer entitled), the PIP award could end even sooner than it was due to.
But some ‘short fixed term awards’ of PIP have no review date. These are where the healthcare professional (from IAS or Capita – who carry out the medical assessments for the DWP) has indicated in their report to the DWP that they expect the claimant’s limitations to improve to such an extent that they are unlikely to have the degree of difficulty in activities that result in entitlement at the end date of the award. These claimants should receive an ‘end of award’ notification letter around 14 weeks before it is due to end. They can make a new claim if their health condition has continued. If they make their new claim before the existing award expires, the new award (if made) should start from the day after the previous one ended (although if it takes a while to assess there could be a gap in receiving payments).
Suspension of Reviews and Reassessments
Initially reviews and reassessments for PIP, DLA, AA,(Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance and Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
were suspended until the end of June, but on 6 July the DWP said in a press release
that suspension continues while the situation is under review, although 'some review and reassessment activity to gradually resume from July 2020 for PIP and DLA
The press release also said:
'Anyone who makes a new claim or is due an assessment will be contacted, if necessary, to discuss next steps, which could involve either telephone or paper-based assessments.
We will shortly be writing out to some PIP and DLA claimants asking them to complete paperwork to resume their reviews, reassessments and renewals. For PIP cases where paperwork has already been returned, claimants may be contacted by one of our Assessment Providers.'
Automatic extension of awards.
On 23rd April 2020, DWP Minister Justin Tomlinson told the Work and Pensions Select Committee,
‘for those that would be due for a reassessment in the next three months, we’ve automatically extended their benefit by six months.
If their condition has deteriorated, and they feel they would be entitled to more money, they can still request a reassessment but otherwise they are automatically extended.’
Warning – we have heard of some claimants whose PIP award period has come to an end and not been extended – even where a new PIP2 has already been submitted but not yet assessed.
We suspect that this is likely to be ‘short fixed term awards’ with no review date – ie those which were not ‘due for re-assessment’.
If you come across this problem the claimant could contact their MP, or the CPAG Early Warning System.
When someone makes a new claim for PIP, this is done over the phone. The normal procedure is that the claimant is then sent a PIP2 questionnaire by post, normally to be returned within one month.
There have been some changes due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
If the claimant provides their email address during the initial phone call, the PIP2 can be emailed to them. They can complete it electronically and return the completed copy (and copies of any evidence) by email. Of course, this won't be an option for all claimants - as some won't have access to email. Claimants who have a benefits adviser supporting them, who is planning to help them to complete the PIP2 questionnaire, could ask the PIP dept if it is possible to email the PIP2 to their adviser. As yet it is not clear whether the DWP would agree to this.
We heard that the deadline to return the PIP2 had been extended to 3 months, although we think this is back to one month now. But note that if one month is not long enough (eg. if the claimant is waiting for help from an adviser) then they can ring the PIP helpline to request extra time.
No face-to-face medical assessments
The DWP have postponed all medical assessments - this was initially until the end of June but the DWP have announced that the suspension continues while the situation is under review.
This change is unlikely to affect claims for DLA for children and Attendance Allowance, which are normally processed without the requirement for a medical assessment anyway.
However, this change will affect PIP claims (and Work Capability Assessments for Universal Credit & ESA and Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit assessments).
Anyone who has a face-to-face assessment appointment scheduled from Tuesday 24th March 2020 onwards does not need to attend and will be contacted to discuss next steps and alternative arrangements, which could involve either telephone or paper-based assessments.
On 23 April 2020, DWP Minister Justin Tomlinson told the Work and Pensions Select Committee,
‘For those new claimants, the terminally ill, and for those who ask for it, we are seeking to do it by telephone, by paper based reviews adopting a very sympathetic, claimant supportive view of this because we recognise that there are increasing challenges to be able to get adequate medical evidence so we are relying very much on the claimant’s case as they explain it.’
From 14 December 2020 PIP claimants who, having been sent a letter inviting them to attend a telephone assessment then fail to do so will have their claim disallowed. They can challenge this through a mandatory reconsideration request.