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Forum Home  →  Discussion  →  Disability benefits  →  Thread

Standard of PIP decision making

1964
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Deputy Manager, Reading Community Welfare Rights Unit

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Is it just us or are standards of decision making becoming even worse?

Encountered two cases today. One is a client with a significant learning disability. Had DLA but no points at all on migration. Decision infers that client is making the whole thing up and makes great play of him having no evidence of being statemented or receiving one to one support whilst at school, or having a social worker currently. Client (who is in his 40s) attended special needs school and has lived with/been support by his parents all his life.  You really don’t have to spend more than a couple of minutes with him to recognize his learning disability.

Second client has copious evidence of her extremely restricted mobility including recent letter from her consultant confirming she can get around outdoors only in a wheelchair and that when indoors she can walk only 10-15 steps using a zimmer frame. All evidence supplied with claim form.  Had HRM on DLA but only LRM on PIP so has now lost her Motability car. HCP stated that ‘since she has power in both legs 50-200 meters would be her reliable distance’.

I know I should no longer be surprised (or angry) but really…

Mike Hughes
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Senior welfare rights officer - Salford City Council Welfare Rights Service

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Standard of initial decision and MRs are now levelling out to be about the same as each other IMO. Increasingly clients are getting insufficient points on claim/conversion and then remarkably losing them on MR only to find loads awarded by a tribunal. So, clearly the governments focus is on tribunals as they MUST be the ones getting it wrong!!!

1964
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Deputy Manager, Reading Community Welfare Rights Unit

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Oh I’ve long since given up anticipating anything positive from MRs. I can count the decisions changed at MR stage on one hand (and then usually given the least possible award despite extremely strong evidence in support of a higher award, presumably in the hope that a crumb from the table will shut the client up).

It’s the sheer cynicism of it that depresses me.

neilbateman
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Welfare Rights Author, Trainer & Consultant

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I regard Mandatory Reconsiderations as being like awkward teenage years - you have to go through them before you can start to be treated like a grown up.

1964
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Deputy Manager, Reading Community Welfare Rights Unit

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Nice one Neil- thank you for cheering me up!

past caring
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Welfare Rights Adviser - Southwark Law Centre, Peckham

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Aye, that’s about the size of it. I’ve got to the point now of shoving in a standard phrase something along the lines of,

“Mr Smith does not have any further information or evidence to submit in support of his request for mandatory reconsideration. The dispute centres on the conclusions to be drawn from the available evidence and is one which we believe is one to be properly resolved by an appeal tribunal. We therefore request that you carry out a mandatory reconsideration of the (insert date) decision without requesting additional evidence from Mr Smith. In the event that you are unable to change your decision in light of the available evidence, please issue a mandatory reconsideration notice without further delay so the matter may proceed to tribunal.”

Just had one yesterday. Diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression in 2005, but clearly suffering symptoms for some time before diagnosis. Treated continuously by the same psychiatrist ever since - details provided in PIP 1 (though we were not assisting at that stage) but no attempt to contact involved health professionals. DLA HRC - nada on conversion (not a single point). Shocking consultation report - e.g. as client had stated he had no problems with washing and bathing in PIP 1, the paramedic who carried out the consultation relied on this and the Functional History taken (“Mr Smith states he can get into and out of a bath and can wash independently”) to come to a finding that there was indeed no problem. Client said exactly the same to me initially - only when I asked a few supplementary questions - “How often do you actually bathe? Is this the same now as it was before you became ill? Ideally, how often would you like to bathe? If this more than you do currently, what is preventing you from bathing more frequently?” - was the true picture of the client requiring considerable prompting and encouragement to maintain hygiene revealed.

And of course, the same process was repeated in respect of every other activity - where the client said he had no difficulty, this was accepted at face value. Then those things he had stated he could accomplish without difficulty were used as evidence in the Functional History to suggest there should be no difficulty with those activities where he had indicated difficulty.

Enhanced rate daily living at yesterday’s FtT.

1964
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Deputy Manager, Reading Community Welfare Rights Unit

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A colleague of mine has ‘hand-held’ several of our clients through the face to face assessment and he was saying exactly the same only yesterday, Past Caring. Questions are closed rather than open and there’s no exploration of ‘repeatedly, reliably and within a reasonable timescale’.

Peter Turville
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I’m sure you are all submitting your examples to the 2nd independent review of PIP which focuses on evidence gathering - deadline 16 Sept. Await the Review report with baited breath.

How do the DWP expect to ‘get it right first time’ (or 2nd or 3rd) in PIP when they reproduce the WCA assessment process in PIP that has failed so miserably to gather appropriate evidence or make appropriate decisions for IB/IS/ESA for the last 20 years?

Over 50% of our PIP cases are now DLA migration. Whilst the qualifying criteria are different the DLA and PIP outcomes should be comparable - after all its still the same person being assessed.

A typical example:
client had DLA hrcc and lrmc - enduring mental illness - organic delusional (schizophrenia-like) disorder. History of frequent detentions under the Mental Health Act. Claimants Community Psychiatric Nurse attended PIP HCP consultation with client. Extensive medical evidence provided at consultation and oral evidence given by CPN. This evidence not recorded on PA4.  This evidence is not referred to in the original or MR decision notice. No reference to this evidence in HCP or decision makers reasoning. No mention of previous DLA award. Awarded 7 points Daily Living and 4 points Mobility.

Tribunal awarded 15 points Daily Living, 10 points Mobility.

Colin Hannon
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HCP carrying out assessments , never mention someone’s walking with pain or poor gait , the words reliably , repeatedly and in a reasonable timescale rarely appear in any report , every case I represent at tribunal requires these points to be highlighted on every case , tribunals are required to flag up any instances of poor assessment reports , I wonder how many are ??

The face to face assessment is flawed and becoming significantly worse , I cringe at what I read when verified By the claimant , it’s immoral

Mike Hughes
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Spending quite a long time responding to the PIP consultation. For me the issue is that we can take an age reproducing anecdote after anecdote but they are dismissed. Ultimately what needs to be addressed is a cultural issue. DMs almost never dismiss a WCA or HCP style report. There is plenty of guidance on how to address evidence but it’s largely irrelevant when the cultural drivers are fear, cuts and alleged fraud. Trying to capture that in a response is quite difficult but I’m busy waffling and honing as the deadline moves ever closer.

I’d be interested to know where the idea came from that tribunals are required to flag up poor reports. I’m not sure that’s a sustainable position. Certainly at our TUGs the implication has been that TS should be independent so to flag up poor HCP style reports would require them to also flag up poor reports from GPs, consultants etc. I’ve never heard of tribunals doing any of those and I would imagine that even for salaried judges there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. In most cases one is kicking at an open door with tribunals. They know how bad the reports are and they’ll often indicate so within limits. Very hard for a medical professional sitting on a panel to publicly say so and obviously some will have a problem with the basic concept of anyone in their profession being wrong full stop.

The reg 4 and 7 stuff doesn’t come up in HCP reports I think for specific reasons.

Firstly, the software is adapted insurance software. In several places it simply isn’t compliant with the law as it stands in much the same way DWP systems for several years couldn’t award SDP. There is, for example, no provision for showing that more than one activity under a descriptor is applicable.

Secondly, the free text boxes assessors see on screen are generally one or two lines long. They appear to often have an unlimited word length but that’s not obvious and it adds an additional incentive for brevity.

Thirdly, the training advises that reg 4 and reg 7 stuff should be noted as part of the free text narrative rather than in any other way. So, assessors are trained not in the law but in ticking one box and then writing “something”. The “something” covers several bases and as a consequence, when faced with apparently only one or two lines to do that it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise when they put “something” relevant but not everything.

My suspicion is that we can tell claimants stories and detail miscarriages of justice and they can be incredibly powerful things, but until we address the specific stuff above, we will get nowehere. A legal challenge based on the software not being fit for purpose would be very interesting indeed.