What is Personal Independence Payment (PIP)?

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a benefit paid to people to help pay for the additional costs of a disability or long-term illness. PIP was introduced in 2013 to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA). You can no longer apply for DLA over the age of 16 and anyone receiving DLA will be moved across onto PIP. For young people under the age of 16, the DLA for children is still in place.

PIP is paid by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) once every four weeks, directly into your bank account. It is a non-income-related benefit, which means that you could be entitled to PIP if you fulfil the criteria. It does not relate to any other household income, which may include: wages, pensions, savings or any other welfare benefit.

Like DLA, PIP is made up of two components, daily living and mobility. Each component has two award levels, standard and enhanced. Claimants can be awarded a combination of both components at either level depending on how you are assessed during your application. The assessment is based around a set of descriptors, which award points toward each component, to obtain the standard rate you need to score eight points and for the enhanced rate, 12 points.

PIP is awarded for set periods of time, at the end of which you will be re-assessed.

How to apply

To apply for PIP, call the PIP Claim line on: 0800 917 2222. As part of this call DWP will ask you for some personal details, which you will need to have ready when you make the call. These are, National Insurance number, name and address of your GP and bank account details.

DWP will send you a PIP2 form, ‘How does your disability affect you?’ which needs to be returned to DWP within 28 days. However, you can request additional time if required. It is important that you return the form within the specified time, otherwise your claim will stop.

As part of this call you are able to request any further communication in large print including the application form. DWP are also able to keep you up-to-date with your application via text message.

Completion of the PIP2 'How does your disability affect you?' form

After calling DWP and applying for PIP, DWP will send you the PIP2 form. This form gives you the opportunity to list your conditions, any medication you take and also the name and contact details of any medical practitioners, clinicians or eye care professionals that support you. The form then allows you to explain how your conditions affects you on a day-to-day basis.

There are 12 questions within the form that ask you to explain how your conditions affect you. Ten are related to daily living and two focus on mobility. When answering each question, consider whether you need help from someone else or if you need to use a piece of equipment to complete the task. In addition, DWP need to know whether you can complete each task to a reasonable standard, repeatedly, in a timely manner and safely.

When answering each question, explain how your central vision loss impacts on the completion of a task. Make sure you give examples of how difficult you find the task due to your sight loss and also what can happen if a task does not go well. For example, cutting yourself with a knife whilst preparing food.

Once you have completed your form, enclose other supporting evidence. This could be letters from the hospital or your doctor, your Certificate of Visual Impairment and any reports from other professionals that might be supporting you. Only send copies of these documents, as DWP will need to keep these for their records.

Where can you score points?

PIP is assessed using descriptors that relate to the questions in the PIP2 form. Points are awarded depending on how you are able to complete tasks. Your application is assessed and the points that you score across the descriptors are added up, giving you either an enhanced rate, standard rate or no award. You can find a breakdown of the descriptors and the points they score on the gov.uk website.

Daily living component

When completing the questions regarding daily living, consider how your macular disease affects how easy it is to complete a task. Central vision loss reduces the ability to see fine detail straight in front of you, which has a direct impact on completing daily tasks. Macular disease can also reduce colour perception and can make some people be very sensitive to light. This can increase the length of time that it takes to carry out a part of your daily routine and your ability to complete it to a high standard. As central vision loss creates a reduction in accurate vison, this can also impact on how safely you are able to complete a simple daily task.

When completing each question, your macular disease will have some bearing on how you are able to complete the task within that question. This could be that you use an aid or piece of equipment or use additional lighting. Using aids and equipment score additional points within each descriptor, so it is very important to highlight them. Any sighted support that you get from someone else to complete a task also scores additional points.

Even though it is possible to score points as a result of central vision loss within most of the questions in the daily living component there are a few questions that you could score highly within, including questions 3, 10 and 11 below.

Question 3: Preparing food

The form asks you how you are able to prepare a simple meal. The important thing to remember is that a cooked meal is prepared on the hob or in a microwave, the oven is not taken into consideration. As macular disease reduces the ability to see fine detail, this can make the kitchen a particularly unsafe environment. Peeling and chopping vegetables can be time consuming and also unsafe. Remember to mention in the form any time that you may have cut or injured yourself in some way in the kitchen. Another thing worth considering is whether or not you can see the food cooking in a pan, do you have to put your face very close to the pan to see the contents and whether it is cooking? Can you see if you have dropped any ingredients onto the floor? Can you see if the food has mould on it?

As in question 10, if you use aids or a piece of equipment for example: talking scales or liquid level indicator you will score additional points within this descriptor. If you need sighted support from another person to cook a meal or keep you safe, again you will score more points. For example, checking if your food is cooked and reading recipes and use-by dates.

Question 10: Identifying signs, symbols and words

The majority of people with central vision loss will struggle to access print and, as a result, may ask for sighted assistance from someone else or use equipment such as a magnifier or screen reading software. Depending on your ability to access print you will score points towards the daily living component in this question, and others.

If you are unable to read print without the support of someone else reading for you or a piece of equipment speaking text to you, you will score eight points. This is all that is required to obtain a standard rate award. Reading can also relate to other questions in the form including question 3: 'Preparing food' for example, when reading recipes and use-by dates. It also relates to question 5: 'Managing treatments', which could include reading medication boxes and dosage instructions.

Question 11: Mixing with other people

Another common issue that people with macular disease encounter is not being able to recognise people. This is because they are unable to see peoples' faces, this can even include family and friends. When completing this question consider whether you are able to identify people, notice what mood they are in and if they are interacting with you. Do you need sighted support to identify people or to let you know who is in your vicinity? Also, due to your macular disease, do you find it difficult to follow visual cues, letting you know when it’s your turn to talk in a conversation. Do you feel anxiety caused by your sight loss when interacting with others? If you rely on sighted support to overcome some of the difficulties that you have with mixing with other people, this will score additional points in this descriptor.

When completing the daily living component use the descriptors to identify what points you could score relating to your condition. If you have any other conditions remember to factor these in too and explain how they affect you. Bear in mind whether you are able to complete the task to a reasonable standard, repeatedly, in a timely manner and safely in each question.

Mobility component

Macular disease also creates issues with moving around. The reduction in central vision can lead to a limited ability to see hazards and obstacles when moving around. The mobility component of PIP focuses on the ability to move around outside of the home and plan a journey.

When completing this component, the main focus for someone with macular disease will be question 13: 'Planning and following a journey’ and Question 14: ‘Moving around’ considers a person’s physical ability to complete this task.

Question 13: Planning and following a journey

In this question, explain how your central vision loss impacts on how easily and safely you are able to navigate outside of your home. The form asks about familiar and unfamiliar areas and whether or not you use a white cane, guide dog or another person to support you in completing a journey. As you have no control over the environment outside of your front door even small changes can impact on your ease of navigation, even on a familiar route. For example, wheelie bins, parked cars on the pavement, and overhanging branches could impede your progress or even force you to walk on the road.

Also, explain your ability to use public transport. Do you need sighted assistance with reading timetables or bus numbers? Can you see a platform number or screens at the train station? Do you ask for assistance from rail staff, the bus driver or other passengers? This sighted assistance can score additional points within this question.

Consider how you would be able to navigate if you were in a location that you had never been to before and you were on your own. What sighted support and guidance would you find useful? Would you need support to read road names, building numbers and signs. This may include shop names, toilet signs and fire exits. Any sighted guidance that you are given scores additional points within this descriptor.

When completing the mobility component, use the descriptors to identify what points you could score relating to your condition. If you have any other conditions remember to factor these in too and explain how they affect you, bearing in mind whether you are able to complete the task to a reasonable standard, repeatedly, in a timely manner and safely in each question.

Question 15: Additional information to support your claim

Question 15 gives you the opportunity to explain other difficulties that you may have, that have not been highlighted in the form. This space can also be used by someone who supports or cares for you to explain what support they give. This could be a family member, friend or carer.

Face-to-face assessment

After you have completed your form and returned it to DWP you may be asked to attend a PIP face-to-face assessment. These assessments can be completed either at a specific location, within the home, by telephone or video link. This depends on what part of the country you are living in. The medical professional that completes the assessment will have some knowledge of your condition and the assessment will take approximately one hour.

The medical professional will have seen a copy of your PIP2 form and any supporting medical evidence that you have sent in with the form. They will ask you if you have any other medical evidence that you would like to submit before taking you through the assessment. The medical professional will then go through your PIP2 form and ask for additional information to clarify what you have stated within the form. They may also ask you to complete some basic medical tests to demonstrate how your conditions affect you. People that attend a medical assessment who have central vision loss will be asked to read a letter chart on the wall as well as print in their hands. If you are asked to read something they will ask you to use any aid that you have stated in the form, so remember to take your magnifier, if you use one, with you.

If you have mentioned any other medical conditions within your PIP2 form they will ask you for more information around those conditions and may ask you to complete other basic medical tests.

The medical professionals are following a script and will do a lot of typing during your assessment, however be aware that your assessment starts from the moment you enter the building it is being held at or when they come into your home. The appointment is not designed to catch you out, and the results will be based on the assessment of that day. It is also worth considering taking someone with you as they will be able to provide support for you. 

The face-to-face medical assessment also gives you the opportunity to explain the impact of your macular disease on your ability to complete the daily tasks mentioned in your PIP2 form. This will provide DWP with the evidence that they require to make a decision on your claim. The more evidence that you can provide within the PIP2 form, the fewer questions you will have to answer within the assessment. Try to be thorough and open when completing the form. This could result in having no face-to-face assessment or a brief conversation with a medical professional on the telephone. 

How DWP reach their decision

After your face-to-face medical assessment has been completed the medical professional will prepare a report and send this to DWP. It is a DWP decision maker that makes the decision regarding your claim.

The DWP decision maker will use the basic information from your claim, your PIP2 form, supporting medical evidence and the advice within the medical report to make a decision. The medical professional will advise the decision maker of how they have assessed your ability to complete the tasks within your PIP2 form, based upon the descriptors. However; it is down to the discretion of the decision maker on the points that you are awarded for each task and if you have accrued enough points within each component to receive an award.

DWP will then write to you to inform you whether you have made a successful claim. The letter will state whether you have been awarded both components and at which rate, standard or enhanced, or if you have not been successful. You may receive an award for only one component. The decision letter will also include an explanation of how they have come to their decision, how many points you have scored for each component and an explanation of how they have reached their decision. This letter will also include the date of your initial payment and also the length of time you have been awarded PIP for.

What do you do if you disagree with the decision?

After receiving your award letter from DWP, read it carefully so you understand the award that has been made and decide whether you agree with the decision. If you do not agree with part or all of the decision you have the opportunity to ask for it to be looked at again.

If you do not agree with part or all of the decision, contact DWP PIP Customer Helpline on 0800 121 4433 to request a mandatory reconsideration of your claim. They will ask you in which areas you disagree with the award and if you would like to submit any further evidence to support your claim. This additional evidence can be given either over the phone to the advisor or via a letter. Remember to send any other supporting medical evidence to the DWP so a full reconsideration can be made.

Your claim will be looked at again by a different decision maker, however this decision maker may agree with the decision that has already been made or change the award. If they decided to change the award this could be an increase or decrease in the initial decision. A mandatory reconsideration must be formally submitted within 28 days of the initial award. After your claim has been looked at again, you will then receive a letter explaining the decision and how that decision was made.

If the decision remains the same or it is reduced, you are now able to appeal this decision at this point. As part of the mandatory reconsideration letter there is a certificate stating that a mandatory reconsideration has been carried out, HM Courts and Tribunals Service need to have this before being able to proceed with an appeal. The Tribunal Service has a submission form which needs to be completed outlining the areas in which you feel that an incorrect decision has been made and on which you would like to base your appeal.

The Macular Society strongly recommends that you receive professional support with mandatory reconsiderations and tribunals. 

If you would like further information

Please contact the Macular Society Helpline on 0300 3030 111 or email help@macularsociety.org

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Depending on your circumstances, you may be entitled to financial support from the government. Welfare benefits are available to help those living with macular disease, and their families, with extra costs.

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We provide free information and support to those with macular disease, along with their family and friends, to help people keep their independence.

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