Personal Independence Payment – the experience of clients and advisers
In the year to March 2023 Personal Independence Payment was the most common benefit issue clients raised with our advisers. On a particular day up to half of CAEE clients have a disability or long-term health condition. For them the benefits system is very important but can also be hard to navigate.
This year in our health and disability campaign we’re aiming to help the public and policymakers understand more about why the difficulties arise.
To start we have looked at the experience of clients we helped with PIP in the first quarter of 2023. Over the full year there was an notable increase in calls for help with the hard work of making claims and appeals (chart). The breadth of support the advisers gave reflects clients’ situations and shows the extent of current problems.
Now is good time to look harder at what is happening. Alongside its Budget in March the government published a Health and Disability white paper. This proposes an important structural change to the system ministers hope will improve people’s chances of getting a job. Any new policy must keep these issues in mind to avoid repetition in future.
Pathways to Citizens Advice
So great is the variety, it’s hard to summarise individual clients’ pathways to contacting Citizens Advice:
- Health conditions ranged from a rare brain disease to the effects of a stroke, from arthritis to ADHD. Mental health problems caused or made things worse for a growing number of clients.
- Process confusions were missed deadlines and meetings; difficulty obtaining required information of all kinds; problems with specific medical history.
- Process disappointments led to clients approaching CAEE when new applications were rejected or reviews reduced their benefit.
- Universal related issues were worries about the suitability, affordability or security of housing; family care and responsibilities.
In addition to these core issues a lot of clients face ongoing difficulties. These include: financial problems, fragile mental health, illness recovery, deteriorating health, lack of digital skills and/or confidence.
Just to read the above shows why the training of CAEE generalist and specialist advisers is so valuable. Their skills and knowledge are in helping clients find their own best way forward. This means understanding complex rules and procedures – claims, appeals, kinds and levels of eligibility; but also their practical approach to problem solving. In this latter category we find advisers:
- Helping clients complete applications and if necessary prepare for appeals
- Supporting clients and participating in their phone calls with assessors
- Arranging appointments on clients’ behalf
- Helping build/rebuild clients’ confidence and morale
- Enjoying clients’ trust and success in obtaining badly needed awards (one recent backdated sum came to £1700).