Landmark PIP victory for mentally ill claimants

Supreme court

Judges decree social support definition is too narrow 

19th July 2019 by Robert Armour 1 Comment

A landmark ruling in the country’s highest court could me thousands more people are eligible for Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

Five judges said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should interpret a key rule on qualifying for PIP more broadly than they currently do.

It means thousands of people with disabilities related to mental health could now be eligible for the benefit.

Mental health charity Mind said the ruling could potentially help thousands.  

The case was taken to court by an unidentified claimant who had PIP rejected because the DWP said he didn’t need social support.

Claimants get fewer points on their assessment if they can’t prove they need support.

Instead the assessors said the claimant only needing prompting to socially engage with people.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) claimed "social support" meant someone trained and experienced in assisting people - not just a friend. Also it said  the "supporter" has to be present at the time someone is trying to engage socially.

However the judges said that definition was too narrow although it did recognise the DWP’s case that social support should be provided by trained professionals and not friends or family.  

Mind spokeswoman Sophie Corlett said: "This is a landmark moment in the ongoing battle to make sure disabled people are supported through our benefits system to live well.

"Far too many are struggling to claim benefits they need because of draconian assessments, which often fail to take fully into account the impact a mental health problem can have.

"Mind hopes, that, with this ruling, thousands more will be able to benefit from much needed help.

"We are very proud to have intervened in support of the individual who took this case on behalf of thousands of people with mental health problems.”

A DWP spokeswoman said: “We are pleased that the court recognised that there must be a need for social support to be provided by a trained or experienced person.

"We will carefully consider the full judgment so that we, working with disabled people and stakeholders, implement it fully and fairly, so that claimants get the PIP support they are entitled to.

“Supporting disabled people and those with mental health conditions is a priority.

"That is why PIP is a better benefit for people with mental health conditions compared to Disability Living Allowance; the proportion who get the higher rate of PIP is five times higher than under DLA.”

21st July 2019 by Elaine

This article is good, but one part is misleading. The court agreed that to qualify under the descriptor in 9c, a claimant must require support from someone who is trained or experienced. However, that experience does not have to be professionally acquired, and therefore can be provided by friends or family. The pertinent distinction is that the provision of support is only effective if delivered by the person who has the training or experienced, and cannot be a general need for someone to support you. The legislation has always stated that friends or family can provide the role of social supporter in this instance, and that experience gained by caring for, and supporting the claimant is indeed relevant. The Supreme Court did not change that rule. They simply clarified that the support does not need to be provided at the same time as the engagement, and can take the form of prior support such as reminding of coping techniques for anxiety attacks. The deciding factor is likely to be whether the provision of support could be undertaken by anyone the claimant feels comfortable with, or if it has to be one specific person because of their experience in dealing with the claimant and their specific condition.