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PIP: innocent until proved otherwise?

PIP claimants - will they see "... a respectful and empathetic claims process"?

Don’t expect to see a government press release about the research released yesterday (10/5/12) by the DWP.

The idea was to see how the process of applying for the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) -  the payment that replaces DLA from 2013 - could be better designed. The focus groups that were asked about this clearly took the opportunity to express their feelings about the way the DLA process works now, and the researchers felt they had to include that strength of feeling in their results

“It is clear that the majority of current DLA claimants do not feel that they have been treated particularly well in the past, within the application and renewal process and, as a result, they do not expect that they will be treated well when applying for PIP.”


There are practical suggestions about the process that need improving – simple things like not having people fill in forms twice, and only having to answer questions relevant to their individual situation. And they found that many people did not really understand the existing DLA criteria. So making the new PIP criteria very clear from the start will help.

But just as significant is the need for a change in mind set, a new tone in the way DWP communicates. Major improvements would come, say the researchers, if the DWP changed the way it does interviews, letters, and notifications. DWP should

  • stop giving the impression that the whole thing is about finding fraud, and recognise that most claimants make applications in good faith
  • acknowledge that – even if not meeting the criteria to receive DLA or PIP – the claimant is nevertheless disabled or is unwell.

Currently the whole DLA processes “… lead claimants to feel that the DWP just doesn’t believe their claim is genuine”.

They don’t use the maxim “Innocent until proved guilty” but that is what they want DWP to feel about claimants. And they say that media mesages can help - a move from "stories of ‘benefits scroungers’ to stories of how PIP has helps people live independent lives" would help reduceantagonism and misunderstanding. And that antagonism can itself result in unnecessary appeal cases.*

The report also talks about the need to involve “intermediary organisations” – that might be groups like yours – in the process. At the moment the voluntary sector usually gets involved only when a claimant appeals a decision. The researchers feel it would make a better process for everyone if support groups got involved much earlier. They agree that this will mean “a change in the relationship between the DWP and intermediary organisations”.

I hope that means that in future the DWP will pay the voluntary groups so that they have the resources to support everyone’s PIP claim so that it is processed swiftly and efficiently and the cost of appeals is reduced.

But I doubt it.
* Ironically the most recent DWP Press Release (8/5/12) is "Benefit fraudsters warned they face tougher penalties"

Lorna Adams and others
Personal Independence Payment user-centered design: Strand 1 report,
Department for Work and Pensions Research Report No 794, 2012
ISBN 978 1 908523 56 3
download free from