Whilst new claims for benefits are 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 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).
- No reviews or reassessments for 3 months.
- Automatic extension of awards.
The government has announced that for 3 months starting from 24th March 2020 there will be no new reviews or reassessments for PIP, DLA, AA, (Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance or Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit).
Thérèse Coffey, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is quoted as saying (Click here
‘We are automatically extending all awards and reassessments for health and disability benefits to provide that reassurance to those in receipt of them’.
And the government announcement goes on to say, ‘Where awards are due to expire, we will be extending end-dates so that claimants continue to receive financial support at their current rate during this period’.
On 23rd April 2020, DWP Minister Justin Tomlinson was a bit more specific when he 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’.
Although, on 11 May, Justin Tomlinson stated,
There was an issue for those on fixed-term, short awards, but 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.
If you come across this problem the claimant could contact their MP, or the CPAG Early Warning System.
No face-to-face medical assessments
The DWP have postponed all medical assessments until at least 19th June 2020.
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.’