BENEFITS EXPERT: How PIP transfers are decided

Someone I know, who is receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA), has a serious mental illness which means they cannot be left indoors alone or go out by themselves. You recently said that, when people on DLA are considered for transfer to the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP), the need for supervision will not be taken into account. How then will the mentally ill be able to qualify for PIP?

I have had several letters about this. A person will be eligible for PIP if they score a certain number of points.

The points are awarded according to how much difficulty they have in managing a set list of routine activities.

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Most of the problems for which people can score points are those that might only apply to someone with a physical disability or a learning difficulty.

These include help that a person might need with such activities as cooking, eating, washing, dressing, toileting, speaking and reading.

By contrast, the point-scoring problems that might be encountered by someone with depression, anxiety or a personality disorder are far fewer.

The most obvious examples of where points will be scored for mental health problems relate to people who suffer ‘overwhelming psychological distress’ when they engage with other people or have to take a journey.

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People can also score points if they need to be ‘prompted’ to carry out necessary tasks such as eating, washing, dressing and bathing which could be symptoms of certain mental health conditions.

A person can score points if they need supervision to ‘manage therapy’ but there are no points to be scored for people who might need supervision in general.

I cannot, of course, predict the outcome of any benefit claim which depends upon a medical condition and we are still finding out how the new rules are being interpreted in practice. However, it seems likely that to get PIP a person’s problems must be more specific than was the case with DLA.

A person with a mental illness might qualify for DLA if they need ‘continual supervision to avoid substantial danger’.

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For PIP, by contrast, the test is not so general. They need to have particular difficulties when dealing with particular activities.

I am an amputee with a pit pension of £178 a month, a State Pension of £122 a week and Industrial Injuries of £40 a week.

I get Housing Benefit that brings my rent down to about £80 a month plus help with Council Tax. Am I entitled to anything else?

You might be entitled to Attendance Allowance if you need a lot of looking after, whether you receive care or not. You can claim by phoning 0345 605 6055.