DWP clarifies PIP assessment 20-metre rule and when informal observations start

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has issued clarification on the way Personal Independence Payments (PIP) are assessed after an MP raised the issue in a written question to Parliament.

Labour MP Dr Rupa Huq asked DWP what assessments have been made on the “potential merits” of removing the 20-metre rule, informal observations and the 50% rule from PIP assessments. The 20-metre rule means that if the person being assessed can walk more than 20 metres, with or without aid, they will no longer qualify for the highest rate of the PIP mobility component support.

Informal observations refer to the way people look or act during their PIP assessment, while the 50% rule means that if your symptoms affect you for less than half the month, you aren’t entitled to support for them. The criteria has long attracted criticism from charities, with the MS Society branding them “senseless” and “unfair”.

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In a written response to the Labour MP, Minister for Disabled People Tom Pursglove MP explained how each of these elements apply to PIP assessments. Speaking of the 20-metre rule, the minister wrote: “The enhanced rate of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) mobility component was always intended to be for those ‘unable’ or ‘virtually unable’ to walk.

“The 20-metre distance was introduced to distinguish those whose mobility is significantly more limited than others and who face even greater barriers on a day-to-day basis. Individuals who can walk more than 20 metres can still receive the enhanced rate of the Mobility component if they cannot do so safely, to an acceptable standard, repeatedly or in a reasonable time period.

“We believe the current assessment criteria, including the 20-metre rule, are the best way of identifying people whose physical mobility is most limited and there are no immediate plans to make changes,” he added.

Issuing clarification on informal observations, the MP explained: “Whilst the PIP assessment does allow for informal observations of functional limitations, this is only part of the suite of evidence considered by health professionals. Informal observations are not viewed in isolation, they are considered alongside all other available evidence to determine entitlement.”

He continued: “The observations are limited to between the point the assessment starts to when the assessment ends; the health professional (HP) cannot document observations made outside of this period. This is useful in assessing functional capability and there are no current plans to stop this.”

And on the 50% rule, the minister said: “It is essential the PIP assessment accurately reflects the impact of variations in an individual’s level of impairment. All health professionals are required to assess individuals in line with the statutory requirements, including: whether an individual can complete each of the 12 activities; the manner in which they can do it; whether they can complete each activity ‘safely, to an acceptable standard, repeatedly and in a reasonable time period’.

“When choosing the descriptor, the health professional should also consider an individual’s ability over a 12-month period, ensuring that fluctuations are taken into account. For each activity, if a descriptor applies on more than 50% of the days in the 12-month period, that descriptor should be chosen.

“In general, health professionals should record function over an average year for conditions that fluctuate over months, per week for conditions that fluctuate by the day, and by the day for conditions that vary over a day.” The MP added that DWP “closely monitors” the assessment process, but that there were “no current plans” to remove the rule.


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