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Thread: PIP Mobility Component

  1. #1
    New Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2014

    Question PIP Mobility Component

    Hi everyone,

    I am helping an agoraphobic relative decide whether to contest a PIP decision whereby they were awarded 4 points for the 'planning and following journeys' topic of the mobility component, rather than one of the higher descriptors we feel is more appropriate. Having browsed some previous forum topics it seems there is a growing trend of people with mental health- related mobility issues being awarded the lesser-pointed 'prompting from another person' descriptor and not receiving the help they were previously granted under DLA (in this case lower-rate mobility). That said, I would appreciate some help with the following questions:

    1. On the PIP2 form the claimant stated that when undertaking unfamiliar journeys they require the presence of another person in order to help them better manage their anxiety symptoms, and that this person is required to provide transport (their own vehicle). Having done some preliminary research (PIP guide/youreable topics) it seems that this would have given the assessor ample grounds to apply the 'prompting' descriptor:

    Would it be worth requesting reconsideration of the claim and providing additional information to better explain the claimant's support needs in respect to unfamiliar journeys - for example stating that the supporting person must be responsible for all planning, and must physically guide the claimant back to the vehicle in the event the claimant suffers a severe panic attack? My concern is that the decision maker will not accept this due to the guidelines which seem to encourage HPs to select descriptor b. when dealing with mental illnesses.

    2. It is my understanding that HPs are instructed that if two descriptors apply, the descriptor that applies most often should be the one chosen... and also that when two descriptors apply, the highest scoring should be chosen. I am a bit confused as to how this applies in my relative's case, where he makes familiar journeys with 'prompting' (4 pts) more frequently than he makes unfamiliar journeys, though for unfamiliar journeys he needs a consistently greater level of care.

    3. Page 113 of the PIP assessment guide states that, "A person should only be considered able to follow an unfamiliar journey if they are capable of using public transport (bus or train)." How does this relate to the 'reasonable standards' and 50% rules? Is this to say that anyone using public transport under any circumstances should be deemed able to follow an unfamiliar journey?

    I'm sorry if this post is overly long but we would really appreciate some help with these issues. As many of you will know, even a small amount of extra income can be crucial in helping to face the extra difficulties posed by physical or mental illness and I feel that without this his condition will only become worse.

    Last edited by edward83; 08-09-14 at 15:46.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    1. It's very unlikely the "cannot follow the route of (an unfamiliar / a familiar) journey without another person, assistance dog or orientation aid" descriptors will apply solely for mental health reasons.

    For either of these descriptors to apply, the person / dog / aid must be providing active navigation assistance - in other words if the person knows or has written down that they need to take the second left then the first on the right to reach their destination on foot, they cannot follow those instructions accurately and safely to reach their destination without one or more of the listed forms of assistance.

    It will be relatively unusual for mental health problems to impair the specific ability to follow a route. The "cannot follow..." descriptors are aimed primarily at claimants with sensory impairments, cognitive problems, autistic spectrum disorders and/or learning difficulties, though the requirement for PIP is to show that the functional impairment is more likely than not to be present owing to any disability or health condition.

    Your explanation is of someone whose anxiety prevents them from going out alone. That would be "needs prompting to be able to undertake any journey to avoid overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant", which is the descriptor that was awarded.

    Let's leave the provision of private transport to one side, as that is not part of any of the PIP activities. "Planning and following journeys" is about travelling as a pedestrian / wheelchair user / scooter user, using public transport where appropriate.

    You state that a severe panic attack destroys the ability to plan a route and to follow that route to safety. Potentially, this engages the "cannot follow..." descriptors and "cannot plan the route of a journey". However, the onus would be on the claimant to show that a panic attack causing these impairments was more likely than not to happen despite someone being with them on at least 50% of days (or, in certain circumstances, on at least the same number of days as they need accompanying when going out). This is likely to be difficult to show because it's such a specific claim that evidence might be a problem. Making such a claim might raise the possibility in the mind of the decision maker that the functional impairments are being exaggerated.

    It may well be easier to argue that on those days when such a disabling panic attack is more likely than not to occur that the correct descriptor is "cannot undertake any journey because it would cause overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant" once safety is taken into account. The problem here, as with many high scoring descriptors, is that the barrier is high - you need to show that the risk of a disabling panic attack means the claimant cannot safely leave their front door even with someone prompting them. If they can get beyond the front door, they cannot be said to be unable to "undertake any journey".

    2. The correct descriptor when several potentially apply is not a matter of guidance, but of law. The rules to apply are found in regulation 7(1) of The Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/377).

    The key thing is the number of days in a year that each descriptor applies. Don't get tied up with which descriptor best describes each day - if both apply on a day, ascribe that day to both descriptors, then use Regulation 7(1) to select the correct descriptor.

    Remember that someone that cannot do the task at all on a day and would not therefore attempt it is entirely unable to do the task. It's a common mistake to say, for example, that mental health problems prevent me going out on five days a week even if accompanied so I'll only talk about the two days I can go out. In that scenario, the five days a week I cannot go out at all are the most important.

    3. The bus and train scenario is an additional route to "cannot follow the route of a familiar journey without another person, assistance dog or orientation aid". If someone cannot undertake a bus or train leg of a journey plan without assistance in using the bus or train, they will satisfy that descriptor even if they can follow familiar journeys on foot.

    However, to satisfy this descriptor via the bus or train route, the need must be for active navigation assistance (finding the right stop, getting on and off the bus / train, finding a seat, recognising when to get off). You do not satisfy this descriptor from a broader inability to use public transport because of psychological distress - that would only be relevant to the two "overwhelming psychological distress" descriptors.

    N.B. This post is based on my interpretation of the law and associated guidance. It is a controversial area, with one forum member awaiting tribunal on the applicability of the "planning and following journeys" descriptors to anxiety.

    My belief is that there is some unfortunate laxity in the wording of the descriptors. I believe the "cannot follow..." descriptors are meant to be specific to following navigation instructions, but this narrow focus is not as clear as it could be in the wording, leaving numerous claimants attempting to fit mental health problems into them.

    I would not be surprised if the Upper Tribunal eventually rules on how "cannot follow..." applies to mental health problems. For now, I believe it is clear that a narrow interpretation is being used - the medical condition or health problems must destroy the specific ability to follow a route plan for the "cannot follow..." descriptors to apply.

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