PIP Process

PIP stands for Personal Independence Payment and is the name of the new benefit that has been introduced to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

The information here explains the process of moving from the DLA to PIP, or making a new claim for PIP.

The PIP Process

If you are already receiving a fixed or indefinite award of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), you do not need to apply for PIP. You will be contacted by the DWP and invited to make a new claim for PIP.

If you have never applied for or been awarded DLA, but feel that you may now be eligible, you will have to make a new claim for PIP by telephoning the DWP and you will then follow the process from stage 2.

If you are noticing that you are struggling to carry out daily tasks, or not able to go out and about even in areas that you are familiar with, you should consider applying for PIP. It’s about how your disability affects you and the help that you need, irrespective of whether you get the help or not.

The Thalidomide Trust’s Guide To Claiming PIP

Thalidomide Trust Guide To Making A PIP Claim

Read our guide on how to claim, eligibility and payment levels

Stage 1 – Notification by the DWP that you are being moved to PIP

Once you receive your letter from the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP), you have 4 weeks to contact the DWP on the number provided and send them the relatively straightforward information requested in the letter.

We would like to know when you have been contacted to move to PIP. Even if you feel that you don’t need any help at this stage, it is useful for us to understand how many people are being affected by the changes. Please email michelle-jane.robinson@thalidomidetrust.org to let us know.

Stage 2 – Completing the form:  ‘How your disability affects you’


If you are completing the PIP application form yourself, please speak with the Health & Wellbeing team before sending your completed form to the DWP.

Approximately 2 weeks after you have responded to the first letter, you will receive a form entitled:  ‘How your condition affects you’. You have one month to complete and return this form. It is important to keep a copy of the form once you have completed it, in case you need to refer to this later on.

It is very important to complete this form as fully and clearly as possible.  This is the most important part of the process.

If you are unsure or need help completing this form there are a number of places you can get help. The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has a good online tool to help you fill in the form and can also provide help face to face. You will need to call your local CAB and make an appointment, so do this in good time.

Find your local Citizens Advice Bureau

If you would like more advice on where to go for help please contact us by e-mailing michelle-jane.robinson@thalidomidetrust.org. We can discuss your form with you and signpost you to a local advice service.

In addition, we can put you in touch with a beneficiary who will help you make sure you fill the form in as thoroughly as possible.

Examples of completed 'How your disability affects you' forms

We have put together some case studies from other beneficiaries who have been through the PIP process, to give you some idea of how to provide the information on the form and evidence your difficulties. These are just examples to help you think about your own problems. They may not all be relevant to you and you may have more to say about your own problems. However, they will help you understand how to think about the descriptors.

1 - Upper limb and eyesight affected

2 - Upper limb and back affected

3 - Upper limb affected

4 - Hearing impaired

5 - Lower limb affected

6 - Upper limb, ear and eyesight issues

You can download a blank form to help you think about your own difficulties here: Blank activity form

What are the Descriptors?

The PIP descriptors include 10 areas of everyday living of activities, and 2 aspects of mobility activity. Each of these descriptors is assessed by the DWP using a scoring system.

To get an award of the daily living component you need to score 8 points for the standard rate, 12 for the enhanced rate.

To get an award for the mobility component you need to score 8 points for standard, 12 points for the enhanced rate.

The person assessing your application will be looking at the detail in your form and judging it, along with the evidence you provide.

Supporting Evidence

You have the opportunity to send supporting evidence to back up the information you have provided in the form. This will not be taken into account unless you disagree with the outcome of the assessment. However, it is useful to get it together at this stage while you are focused on producing your information.

The extra information we suggest you gather could include:

  • A medical report from any specialist you have been seeing (they may charge you for this).
  • Information that confirms any adaptations you have made to your home or car – e.g. invoices.
  • A supporting letter that provides information about how your disability affects you - The Thalidomide Trust can provide this for you. See our example support letter. Or you may have someone you see regularly relating to a long term condition who would also provide this – a physiotherapist for example.
  • Letters confirming your appointments with any therapists you see regularly.
  • A copy of the Condition Insight Report.

Another excellent resource with good advice about filling in the form is the PIP Guide to claiming.

If you need more time to fill in your form, don’t panic. You should contact the PIP claim line immediately and ask for an extension (telephone: 0345 850 3322 or textphone: 0345 601 6677). If you have a good reason, they’ll agree a new deadline over the phone. Contact michelle-jane.robinson@thalidomidetrust.org for help if you are worried about time and need help asking for an extension.

Top tips when sending in your application

When completing the form stress that "my condition will not improve and may only get worse".

Include a copy of the ‘Condition Insight report’.

If you are happy and feel comfortable to do so, send in a photo showing your disability.

Send in a medical support letter from the Trust’s Medical Advisers.

Stage 3 – The Assessment


The Government has postponed all face-to-face medical assessments at the moment. The DWP will try to assess you by talking to you over the phone.

In some cases the DWP assessor will decide if they have enough information to make a decision based on the information in your form and supporting information alone. We would love to know if this happens to you – please let us know by e-mailing michelle-jane.robinson@thalidomidetrust.org

If the DWP need further information from you to make a decision about your claim, they will then instruct one of two contracted assessment companies, Atos or Capita to further assess you. In most cases you will be contacted by one of these organisations and invited to attend a face to face assessment. This will be held at an assessment centre that is relatively local to where you live. You are able to take someone with you to the assessment. You should also bring along a copy of your application form so you can refer to this.

Read the Citizens Advice information on preparing for your PIP assessment

The person carrying out the assessment will have all the information from your form. It is essential that at the assessment you repeat and reinforce this information as that is what the assessor is looking for.

The assessor is there to observe your situation in line with the descriptors and ask questions to confirm how your disability affects your day to day activities in the following areas:

Ten areas of daily living activity

  • Preparing food
  • Taking nutrition
  • Managing therapy or monitoring a health condition
  • Washing and bathing
  • Managing toilet needs or incontinence
  • Dressing and undressing
  • Communicating verbally
  • Reading and understanding signs, symbols and words
  • Engaging with other people face to face
  • Making budgeting decisions

Two areas of mobility activity

  • Planning and following journeys
  • Moving around

The DWP assessor will utilise the information provided by the professional, who has met you, to make their final decision. Ultimately the power of award and decision lies with the DWP.

Read one of our beneficiary's tips for a PIP face to face interview from their own experience.

Requesting a Home Assessment

In some circumstances you can request that assessment takes place at your home. In particular if you can evidence that you have significant difficulties travelling and moving around due to your disabilities or anxiety, for example, and would have great difficulty getting to the assessment centre.

Evidence will need to be provided from a GP or other healthcare professional who is treating you that you are unable to travel due to health grounds.

Preparing for an Assessment

The assessment is a key part of the process and it is helpful to understand the criteria that the assessor will use and how you can help them understand the impact your disability has on you.

People have told us that they find the assessment a difficult experience because it forces them to focus on the negatives and all the things they can’t do. Many beneficiaries cope very well on a day to day basis, have a very positive outlook towards their abilities and hate to define themselves as disabled. However, it is very important that the assessor understands what life is like for you most of the time to be able to award you the correct number of points.

There are two key areas – how often you have difficulty carrying out an activity and how reliably you can carry it out.

The assessor will ask about how often you experience the difficulties with the activities of daily living that you have described in your form. The important point for the assessment is to be clear whether you experience each difficulty on more than half of the occasions that you undertake that task within any set period, which may be a week, a month, or a year.

The assessor will award you points based on whether you can complete a task within a descriptor RELIABLY. The “Reliably” test is very important and means:

  • You have to be able to manage an activity in a manner that is unlikely to cause any harm to yourself or anyone else. Harm doesn’t have to occur, but if it is likely to occur then you are not able to complete a task “reliably”.

For example – if you can make a simple meal, (which includes preparing fresh vegetables and cooking them, opening tins and packets, or cup of tea) and experience numbness in your hand which means that the knife (or kettle) might slip and you could cut yourself – you cannot prepare food "safely".

  • If the effort of completing the activity makes it hard for you to repeat that particular task or prevents you from completing other tasks, e.g. due to a combination of pain and fatigue, you are not "reliably" able to do it.

For example – if you can go to the toilet independently in the morning using the commode (or walk 50 metres), but cannot do it later in the day as your pain and tiredness is worse, then you cannot do it “repeatedly”.

In a reasonable time
  • If a person did not have the same mental or physical condition as you, then how long would they take to do that task? If you would take twice as long as this, then you are not achieving that particular descriptor "reliably".

For example – if you can manage to shower and dress yourself but it takes more than twice as long as someone who does not experience the same difficulties as you in managing this task, then you cannot do it “in a reasonable time”.

To an acceptable standard
  • If you perceive that you can manage a task and actually see it through but are unable to carry it out effectively and thoroughly, then this has not been achieved "reliably".  

For example – if you can wash yourself but can’t reach your hair and certain parts of your body thoroughly even using an aid, then you cannot do it to an acceptable standard”. You may be able to squirt the shower gel on your chest and then you leave the water to rinse the gel, but this not getting thoroughly cleaned.

Stage 4 – Notification of the Decision

You will be notified of the decision by letter within 4 weeks of the assessment. This tells you which element of PIP you have been awarded and at what level.

Please let us know by email the outcome of your PIP application for our records and if you are unhappy with the decision, contact us for help with what to do next.

Stage 5 – Mandatory Reconsideration

If you think the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) has made the wrong decision about your claim for PIP, and you did not get the award that you think you were entitled to, you can challenge the decision by asking the DWP to look at their decision again. This is called a ‘mandatory reconsideration. This is the process whereby you formally ask the DWP to look again at their decision and can provide further evidence or information to help your case.

If you wish to appeal at a later date, you MUST have gone through this process first.

Read the Citizens Advice information on challenging a PIP decision for more information.

If you would like some help or advice at this stage, please contact us by e-mailing michelle-jane.robinson@thalidomidetrust.org

Stage 6 – Appeal

If you are not happy with the outcome of the DWP’s reconsideration, then you can appeal to the First Tier Tribunal in writing.

The Tribunal may be able to make a decision based on your written appeal, or you may be required to attend in person.

Read the Citizens Advice information on appealing against the decision

If you are considering an appeal and feel you need some help, please contact Michelle Robinson on 01480 474074 or e-mail michelle-jane.robinson@thalidomidetrust.org to talk about the help that is available.


Download The Full PIP pack