THOUSANDS of households are eligible for a key disability benefit but aren't claiming it.
Personal Independence Payments (PIP) are given to those with long-term mental or physical health problems or disabilities.
Nearly three million claimants are entitled to PIP in England and Wales.
The payments can be worth as much as £172.75 a week, so if you don't claim it already, it could be a good idea to check if you're eligible.
PIP is available to those aged 16 or over who have not yet reached the state pension age.
You can claim PIP at the same time as other benefits, including Universal Credit.
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However, the application process can be extremely daunting, especially for those with serious health conditions.
We spoke to Tom Farquhar, benefits information specialist at disability equality charity Scope, about the five things that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) won't make clear before you apply.
Here's everything you should know.
1. Know the criteria
Tom said: "Before going into your PIP assessment, you should read up on the criteria that you'll be assessed against.
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"The rough idea is that the amount of money you receive depends on the points you receive in two categories – the daily living component and mobility component.
"If you do not get enough points, you will not get any PIP so reading these in advance of your assessment might be helpful when it comes to answering questions and giving evidence."
Crucially, you must also have a health condition or disability where you either have had difficulties with daily living or getting around – or both – for three months.
You should also expect these difficulties to continue for at least nine months (unless you're terminally ill with less than 12 months to live).
Difficulties with daily living can include:
- Preparing or eating food
- Washing, bathing and using the toilet
- Dressing and undressing
- Reading and communicating
- Managing your medicines or treatments
- Making decisions about money
- Engaging with other people
2. Keep a diary
Tom said that when you're asked about providing evidence for your condition, you might think that it can only be notes from a health professional or a medical diagnosis.
However, he said: "One of the best ways to show how your condition affects you day-to-day is to keep a diary.
"That way you have dated evidence of the impact of your condition on your everyday life which is the way PIP is assessed.
Those who made a claim that was first rejected should also note down any communication they have with the DWP to refer back to if they're going to appeal.
3. Make copies
First-time claimants should always make a copy of their PIP application, according to Tom.
He said: "When you have completed your application, make a copy of the form and evidence because the DWP is unable to send your documents back.
"This will help to remind you what you said when applying, which is useful when it comes to your assessment and makes sure you sound coherent.
"It also means that if your form gets lost in the post, you won't have to rewrite everything again.
"You can also use it when you need to reapply at the end of your award."
Tom also advised that claimants always ask if they can have proof of postage to avoid any delays or penalties by it being lost in the post.
4. Recording your assessment
Many aren't aware that they can record their PIP assessment.
Tom said: "This means that you can use the recording if you need to challenge the decision made by the assessor, or to challenge anything being changed in your notes afterwards."
You'll need to ask the assessor in advance if it can be recorded, but once agreed you can both make an audio recording of the assessment.
You can only use this for certain things, and you will have to sign a form or verbally agree to this.
But if the assessor refuses, you can complain to your assessment provider, according to Tom.
5. When to appeal rejected claims
Once you've heard back about your PIP claim, you might decide you want to appeal.
In fact, Tom recommends that everyone should appeal the decision if:
- Your claim is turned down
- You'll get less money than you thought
- Your claim review date is too soon
He said: "You might wonder whether it's worth appealing, but recent figures show that a whopping 68% of the DWP decisions cleared at a tribunal hearing were "overturned" and revised in favour of the customer."
If you disagree with a benefit decision, you have one calendar month from the date on your decision letter to ask the DWP to reconsider.
This is called a mandatory reconsideration.
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We've previously explained how to claim PIP and what to expect during the assessment.
You can make a new PIP claim by calling the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on 0800 917 2222.
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