Fears claimants will find it harder to get full entitlement to Personal Independence Payments
Benefit assessors have been told that people with mental health conditions should not be assessed under the same criteria as those with physical disabilities.
New guidelines from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to assessors for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) says those whose mobility is limited due to mental health conditions should not be entitled to receive the mobility component of the benefit.
Even if their mobility is limited to the same extent as someone with a physical impairment, the guidance says that mobility impairments caused by psychological issues are “not relevant”.
It comes as the government enacts legislation to reverse a decision made by a tribunal which ruled people who need mobility help due to psychological issues should be entitled to the same help as people with physical issues under PIP.
Responding to the updated guidance, Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said PIP payments should be based on the impact of an illness on a person’s lives rather than what their specific medical condition was.
“The purpose of PIP is to cover the extra costs people incur because of a disability – decisions makers shouldn’t discriminate between disabilities on the basis of their cause, but decisions should be based on the impact of the disability," he said.
“People who struggle to leave the house without support may face the same costs whether their difficulties arise from, for example, a sensory disability or severe anxiety or other mental health problems.”
A spokesperson for the DWP said: “At the core of PIP’s design is the principle that mental health conditions should be given the same recognition as physical ones.
“In fact, there are more people with mental health conditions receiving the higher rates of both PIP components than the DLA equivalents.
“This government is also investing more in mental health than ever before – spending more than £11bn this year.”
Case study for assessors
This case study is given to DWP assessors to help them with PIP awards
“Sukhi suffers from severe anxiety and claims she needs someone with her for reassurance when going out at all times as otherwise she suffers from very severe panic attacks, sweating and breathlessness.
“Sukhi has sought an award under mobility descriptor 1f as she cannot follow the route of a familiar journey without another person. However, the [decision maker] determines that because of the wording of mobility descriptor 1f (“for reasons other than psychological distress, cannot follow the route of a familiar journey without another person, an assistance dog or an orientation aid”), any problems following the route due to psychological distress are not relevant.
“Consequently the [decision maker] awards 4 points under mobility descriptor 1b ‘needs prompting to be able to undertake any journey to avoid overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant’.”