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Stop Personal Independence Payment from disqualifying claimants with emotional problems

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The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is presumed to be a benefit for people with a long-term health condition or impairment, whether physical, sensory, mental, cognitive, intellectual, or any combination of these. It is supposed to be paid to make a contribution to the extra costs that disabled people may face, to help them lead full, active and independent lives.  10 activities for daily living and 2 activities for mobility and planning journeys are taken into account:

Daily Living (10 activities):

• preparing food • taking nutrition• managing therapy or monitoring a health condition• washing and bathing • managing toilet needs or incontinence• dressing and undressing • communicating verbally • reading and understanding signs, symbols and words• engaging with other people face to face• making budgeting decisions

Mobility (2 activities):
• planning and following journeys• moving around

Points are allocated for each of these areas, 8 points entitle the claimant to a standard rate of PIP for that area, 12 for an enhanced rate.

However in practice the first 8 areas of Daily Living are unlikely to apply to a person claiming this benefit who is suffering from extreme anxiety, depression, social phobia, agoraphobia, or who has high functioning autism. Such a claimant has to rely on the "planning and following journeys" questions of the Mobility section, or perhaps the "engaging with other people face to face" questions:-

9. Engaging with other people face to face.
a. Can engage with other people unaided. 0 points.
b. Needs prompting to be able to engage with other people. 2 points.
c. Needs social support to be able to engage with other people. 4 points.
d. Cannot engage with other people due to such engagement causing either –
(i) overwhelming
psychological distress to the claimant; or
(ii) the claimant to exhibit behaviour which would result in a substantial risk of harm to the claimant or another person. 8 points.

Many claimants with overwhelming difficulty with social engagement due to their mental health conditions are not qualifying for PIP.  Many find that they are treated sympathetically by their assessor yet this does not translate to a successful claim, many find the overwhelming emphasis of the process on quite severe physical incapacity when it is a poor fit for their equally challenging mental health conditions to be inappropriate and distressing.  Many find that in an area where life is hugely difficult such as 9 (d)(i) above, they are not being awarded any points at all.  Also a reliance on "planning and following journeys" is now being questioned and may be made more difficult for claimants with mental not physical impairment.

Physical health conditions are of course overwhelming but it is wrong to presume that mental health conditions are less so.  Arguably it may be more straightforward for an employer say to provide accommodation for a physically disabled employee than one with mental health conditions, which are less readily understood and usually less visible, also any kind of normal social life might be denied a person with debilitating emotional mental or psychological impairment.

The wording of the questions for the PIP application, points awarded, weight given to the GP's medical evidence and evidence provided by family or friends, and the often distressing assessment process must be changed urgently to better reflect a humane society in which physical and psychological disorders are given equal respect which is a goal outlined by the Prime Minister Theresa May.

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