Disability Benefit Reviews Suspended

Due to the Covid-19 emergency, the government has stated:

…there will be no new reviews or reassessments across all benefits for three months – this includes Universal Credit (UC), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.”

…where awards are due to expire, we will be extending end-dates so that claimants continue to receive financial support at their current rate during this period.

This is effective from 24 March 2020, and the government have stated the suspension of re-assessments “will be extended if necessary.”

In a more recent statement the Minister for Disabled People stated that disability benefits awards are being extended for SIX months. On 11 May the Minister, Justin Tomlinson, confirmed that this suspension of re-assessments would apply to all PIP awards.

DWP Double-Dealing

However the DWP are continuing to wrongly send out PIP re-assessment/ review forms. If this happens to you – insist to the DWP that this is wrong and seek our support to get the DWP to send you a letter stating that your review is suspended and your claim is extended.

ECAP rang the DWP number for existing PIP claims – 0800 121 4433 – and as of 26 May there is the following recorded message:

If we have recently sent you an Award Review “How your disability affects you” form, you do not need to fill it in and return it to us. We will extend your award and your PIP payments will continue. We will send you a letter to confirm this.

If you have already returned the form, you may be invited to a telephone assessment appointment. It is important that you take part so we can make a decision on your claim.

If you have received a DWP letter stating that your award has been extended and you do not need to return the review form then that is great – guard the letter with your life!

However if you have received a review form but no countermanding letter, then it is really important you do NOT rush to return the form because, as long as you do NOT return the form, the DWP state that your benefits will continue as at present. However if you DID return the form then the DWP could do a reassessment over the phone and might cut your benefits. If you are in this situation you now need to investigate.

In view of the DWP ‘s track-record of double-dealing it is vital to ring the PIP line – 0800 121 4433 – to insist they send you a letter confirming that your review is suspended and that your claim is extended – best to ask ECAP or similar group to do this so that the DWP realise you have backing.

CPAG informed ECAP that some PIP claimants were told by the DWP on the phone that their PIP award was continuing – but then their benefits were stopped. So it is absolutely vital to get written confirmation.

ECAP intends to take up this disgraceful behaviour by the DWP and insist that they implement the Government’s stated policy of totally suspending all disability benefits reviews. They must stop sending out review forms and if one is mistakenly sent out and then mistakenly returned it should be disregarded. The review process is oppressive enough normally but would be now worse than ever as claimants would find it much more difficult to get support with filling in the review forms and would then likely be subjected to an interrogation by phone without support.

The only situation where it could be in a claimant’s interests to have a review is where they only have a partial award and their condition has clearly and significantly worsened, giving the likelihood of a higher award – and there is already a provision for claimants to ask for a review in such a situation.

More info from benefits experts CPAG here.

Do note the following from CPAG, stressing the importance of getting a letter confirming your PIP or other disability benefit is definitely being extended:

At the time of writing, the DWP appears to intend to extend most DLA, PIP and AA awards that are coming to an end without you being asked to take any action. If your award is ending in less than six months and you have not been notified in writing that it will be extended, you are likely to need to make a new claim You should get advice by contacting the DWP helpline for the benefit in question, as soon as possible. Your money will stop automatically unless a decision is made to extend your award before it ends.

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