Equality Act reasonable adjustments for PIP

Akim was summonsed for a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) personal reassessment*. He is 19 and has severe learning disability. He was also awaiting the latest round of surgery associated with the hole in his heart that he was born with.

Akim’s mother explained to the DWP’s assessments agent that he was unable to attend and so needed a postponement of the reassessment process. This request was refused with the DWP’s agent demanding attendance for personal assessment prior to surgery appointments, which was too much for Akim.

Kester Disability Rights wrote to the DWP explaining that Akim required reasonable adjustments to the PIP reassessments regime because of his disability. These were a file review on the basis of specialist medical evidence and, if a personal assessment was genuinely needed, that it should be done by telephone with Akim’s mother.

The DWP completed the reassessment without a personal assessment and increased Akim to the highest rate of both components of PIP when previously he was getting the standard rates.

  • This case pre-dates the lock-down. All PIP personal assessments are now by telephone.

Business as near to usual as possible at Kester Disability Rights

Kester Disability Rights continue to operate as close to normal as possible given the restrictions imposed by the Government in response to coronavirus.  I have one very part time assistant who is now on indefinite home-working.  I'm in the office on my own as usual, not being able to work at home due to not having the internet there, and my office being about four hundred yards away (we seem to have to justify every movement at the moment).

For anyone wanting facts about the coronavirus situation I would recommend this.

The DWP is extending PIP award periods as it is currently banned from doing face-to-face assessments.  So if your award was due for renewal there's no need to worry as it will be extended.  All ESA / Universal Credit reassessments are also on indefinite hold.

A potential problem with the current situation is if your benefits review would have resulted in an increase in your payments but is now delayed.  That means if you wait for the review you could end up with an unrecoverable under-payment.  In these circumstances you can "apply for a supersession".  This means telling the DWP your condition has worsened / your needs have increased.  The date you tell the DWP creates a point where any increase can be backdated to. 

Most social security appeal tribunals and county court hearings will now be by telephone or on the papers.  Telephone hearings tend to move along more briskly than face-to-face so can be a good solution for many people.  There are likely to be serious issues for people such as deaf claimants for whom a telephone hearing will not be suitable.  Video-conferencing should be made available.  Paper hearings can be okay as long as the claimant is able to submit an adequate case in writing.  A signed witness statement with a statement of truth can substitute for oral evidence.

Kester Disability Rights has been using different type of hearings for people with different needs for quite some time.  Personal hearings were never a good solution for many people but courts and tribunals were always keen on them.  This has forced a re-think.

Coronavirus implications – no more face-to-face personal assessments

Virtually everyone Kester Disability Rights supports has increased vulnerability to coronavirus infection.


Anyone summonsed for a face-to-face personal assessment for any benefit should now have the summons withdrawn by the DWP following Government Guidance about avoiding contact with other people to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.  This is the latest position from the Government.


For Personal Independence Payments (PIP) there is provision in the regulations for telephone assessments, which should now be standard if the claim cannot be decided by scrutiny of documentary evidence.


All Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit based on incapacity for work awards are indefinite (despite the DWP leading many claimants to believe they are time limited).  It is therefore straightforward for the DWP to call off all reassessments. 


For those subject to mandatory work-related activity, work search and so on this should also be suspended as it involves unnecessary social contact and the Government guidance suggests this is recognised..


There are also implications for those with reduced immunity scoring increased points for PIP under Activity 3 – Managing Therapy / Monitoring a Health Condition and this will depend on individual circumstances.


In fact, stopping any disabled person's benefits during the coronavirus outbreack cannot legitimately be done (if it ever could be) because of problems getting advice and support in the current circumstances.  And because it would add entirely unnecessary additional stress to an already very difficult situation.


Deaths of claimants told to do things they obviously can’t do and having their benefits stopped for not doing them has not stopped the DWP carrying out unnecessary reassessments.  But it looks like coronavirus is having an impact.

DWP reasonable adjustments round-up

Here are some of the reasonable adjustments that Kester Disability Rights has got for disabled social security claimants over the last year:

  • A claimant unable to attend an assessment, and whom the DWP’s agent also refused to visit on the basis that he was allegedly dangerous, even though he was not, got his visit and was awarded PIP standard rate daily living and enhanced mobility accordingly.

  • An abuse victim had her work capability assessment modified to remove the personal assessment element that she found impossible to cope with.

  • A severely autistic and mentally impaired claimant had his DLA stopped because he could not cope with the PIP reassessment process. Upon reasonable adjustments being requested he was transferred to the highest rate of both components of PIP without a personal assessment.

  • A severely autistic woman with complex mental health issues was accused by the DWP of “failing to participate in a PIP assessment”. Upon reasonable adjustments being requested, a telephone call to her appointee, combined with a file review, resulted in an indefinite award of the highest rate of both components of PIP.

  • A man with paranoid schizophrenia who could not deal with the standard PIP reassessment process was transferred to PIP with the reasonable adjustment of a file review and telephone contact with a carer.

  • The ESA reassessment process was modified for a man who had been sectioned at least 18 times after the initial DWP decision was to reassess him by a personal assessment he was obviously unable to deal with. After consideration of further medical evidence that the DWP already had, he was exempted.

  • A victim of child sexual abuse with severe mental health problems arising from it was exempted from the work related activity they were unable to deal with because of their condition.

It's been a busy time and not without stiff resistance from the Government Legal Department on some cases, of which more later...

Abuse of Government power moves from DWP to Honours

In 2017, the UK Government was found to have committed ‘grave and systematic’ violations of the rights of disabled people - surely a low-point in the history of the UK, especially since 1945. Yet now the politician most responsibe has been Knighted. In 2014 Iain Duncan-Smith received a Coroners report requiring him to take action to prevent further deaths of vulnerable benefits claimants. Since then several people have died in similar circumstances because nothing was done. These include Jodey Whiting who killed herself having had her income removed because she was unable to attend a personal assessment ordered because of the repeated reassessment policy persued by Iain Duncan-Smith. The repeated summonsing of chronically sick and disabled claimants to personal assessments, when in fact there is no actual doubt as to their eligibility for benefits, is his creation. And now the architect of a regime that costs tax payers a fortune in payments to contractors and "no brainer" appeals, and which has led to the deaths of claimants, and misery for thousands more, is Knighted. Here is a petition calling on the Government to correct the situation:

Case for prosecution against DWP

This thoroughly researched articile from Disability News Service (DNS) explains why there should be a police investigation into what's been going on at the DWP since 2010.

DWP - the case for the prosecution

Kester Disability Rights is assisting several claimants in circumstances where the DWP knows they could be harmed by what it is doing.  The DNS article shows it cannot reasonably argue it is ignorant of the implications, especially when it refuses to modify its repeated reassessment regime.  The DWP has even received coroners' reports in the past making it clear that action is needed to prevent further deaths, but instead appears to have "doubled down" with ever more unnecessary, and potentially harmful, decisions to reassess chronically sick and disabled people for ESA or Universal Credit, even though the legislation requires no repeated reassessment of chronically sick and disabled claimants at all.

Deliberating placing seriously ill and disabled people under the continuous pressure of reassessment when it is well known their circumstances have not improved, and knowing they also have serious issues coping with the process, is inexcusable.  And now we know what the DNS has revealed it can only be seen as causing harm intentionally.  These practices have been proved to be dangerous and so carrying on with them with that knowledge has to be in the most serious category of abuses of power by a government department.



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