Disability benefits and coronavirus
This briefing explains changes to the claims, assessment and reassessment processes for personal independence payment (PIP), disability living allowance (DLA) and attendance allowance (AA) as a result of the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The briefing will be updated as further information becomes available.
Last updated 18 June 2020
On 23 March 2020, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced that disability benefit ‘reviews’ and ‘reassessments’ for PIP, DLA and AA have been suspended for at least three months. At the time of writing this measure is being reviewed, and may be extended. This briefing also explains the effect of a separate announcement (which is also currently being reviewed) that face-to-face assessments for disability benefits have been suspended for at least three months from 17 March 2020.
At the time of writing, the DWP appears to intend to extend most DLA, PIP and AA awards that are coming to an end, without you being asked to take any action. If your award is ending in less than six months and you have not been notified in writing that it will be extended, you may need to make a new claim. You should get advice by contacting the DWP helpline for the benefit in question, as soon as possible. Your money will stop automatically unless a decision is made to extend your award before it ends.
Currently, the DWP’s policy is not clear. So it is a good idea to get independent advice if the information below contradicts what you are told about your own case by DWP staff.
This briefing explains the normal processes, what has changed and what you should do in the following situations:
You can also find more information about how the law works if your award is ending soon in this article from the Welfare Rights Bulletin.
If you are thinking about claiming PIP, DLA or AA
You can still make a new claim. You should do so as soon as possible, because claims cannot be backdated.
Who can claim
DLA, AA and PIP are either for people who have a long-term condition or disability, or who are terminally ill. It is extremely unlikely that anyone will qualify due to having COVID-19. Get advice if you are unsure whether you are entitled to a benefit or not.
For basic information about whether you might get a benefit, use the links below. If you are unsure and you do not already get one of these benefits, you can make a claim anyway. Get specialist immigration advice before claiming if you are or might be ‘subject to immigration control’ or may not be allowed to claim ‘public funds’.
Making a claim
The best way to start a claim is by phone. The links below give alternative ways to start your claim, but if you do not start a claim by phone your benefit will start from a later date.
To claim PIP if you are 16 or older but younger than pension age, contact the PIP new claims helpline.
To claim DLA for a child younger than 16, contact the DLA helpline.
To claim AA if you have reached pension age, contact the AA helpline.
If you have claimed PIP, DLA or AA but not yet had a decision
If you have already returned your DLA or AA claim form, then you should not need to do anything. The DWP can ask you for additional evidence, but that rarely happens. If you have any new evidence about your care or mobility needs, or problems you have managing everyday activities, you can send it to the DWP office that is dealing with your claim.
If you have claimed PIP there is a separate assessment process after you claim. The changes to this process are explained below.
If you have got a form that you have not yet returned
You are normally asked to complete a form about how your condition(s) affect you. That helps the decision maker to decide whether you qualify for a benefit or not. You will not be awarded a benefit unless you return the form. It is best to return it as soon as you can.
Personal independence payment
If you have claimed PIP, there is a separate assessment process once your claim has been accepted. First, you have to complete a ‘How your disability affects you’ questionnaire (PIP2), and then you may be separately assessed.
You currently have three months to return the PIP2 form, starting from the date it is sent to you. You can check that this still applies, and ask for extra time to return it, by contacting the PIP enquiry line.
If you do not return the questionnaire within three months, your claim can be refused. If that happens, you can challenge this decision.
You can still return the questionnaire. To make sure you have explained all the help you need with activities, it is a good idea to get help from an adviser to complete the form. See below for how to get help with a form.
Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance
For DLA and AA, until you return the claim form, you have not yet made a claim. You are normally allowed six weeks to return the form. That six weeks was counted from the date you phoned the DWP to request the form, but this period can be extended.
The DWP are currently allowing three months to return theDLA claim form. You can check whether this is still the case, and ask for extra time to return it, by contacting the DLA helpline. If you follow this advice and your claim is not later backdated to the date you asked for the form, you can challenge this decision.
There is currently no message on the AA helpline about whether you will be given extra time to send in the claim form. If you need longer than six weeks to return a form, ask for more time by contacting the AA helpline. If an extension is refused, you should return the form as soon as you can.
For both DLA and AA, if you disagree with the date from which your benefit starts, you can challenge this decision. Get advice before doing so, because the amount of your benefit could also be reconsidered.
If you need help to complete a form
It is a good idea to get help with benefit forms from an expert if you can. Help is particularly important if you find it hard to explain your needs in writing, due to your condition or if English is not your first language. If you have made a new claim (or your needs have increased), you will not get a decision until you return the form. It is your decision whether you complete the form yourself or try to get help.
Advice agencies can help you to complete benefit forms, but their services have also been affected by the outbreak of COVID-19. You should contact a local advice agency and ask if they can help you to complete the form. You can learn how to find a local advice agency on the CPAG website.
If there is not an advice agency able to help you, contact the DWP and ask for their help. DWP staff are busy at the moment, so you may be told that you can simply wait to complete the form. You can check by contacting the helpline for the benefit you are claiming.
If you complete a form yourself, the notes that you were sent with the form are helpful, and there is also information available online. There may be a specific guide produced by a charity that helps people with your condition. The links below are examples of some general guidance to help you fill in disability benefit claim forms.
Citizens Advice has tips on completing the PIP questionnaire and tips on completing the AA form.
Age UK has tips on claiming AA.
Remember that if you already get a benefit your award can be reduced if you report a change. If you have not explained all of your needs on the form, it may appear to the DWP that you now need less help.
If you have an award that is ending or being reviewed
Unlike most other benefits, DLA, PIP and AA can be awarded for a fixed period. Unless a new decision is made before your award ends, your benefit will stop. Normally, you cannot challenge this, because there is no need for the DWP to make a decision to stop your award.
If your PIP award is currently being reviewed
The process for reviewing PIP awards normally starts about a year before your award is due to end. You will know your award is being reviewed as you will have been sent form 'AR1'. At the time of writing a message on the PIP enquiry line says that there is no need to return the review form and your award will be extended. You should be notified in writing when this has happened. Check if this is still the case by contacting the PIP enquiry line.
You can still return the form, if you think that your circumstances have changed and you may qualify for more PIP. See below for more information about changes of circumstances.
If you do return the form, you might be asked to take part in an assessment. See below for information about assessments.
If your award ends in less than six months and you have not been told in writing that it will be extended, you can ask what is happening by contacting the PIP enquiry line.
If your award is not being reviewed, see below.
If your PIP award is due to end within the next six months
Some PIP awards are not reviewed. The normal process is for the DWP to remind you to make a new claim about three months before your award will end. The law, however, allows you to make a new claim up to six months before your award ends. If your award ends in less than six months, and the DWP have not sent you a review form or told you in writing that your award will be extended, you should make a new claim as soon as possible. See above for how to claim PIP.
If your DLA or AA award is due to end within the next six months
Normally the DWP sends you a claim form about six months before your DLA or AA award ends. At the time of writing, a recorded message on the DLA helpline says that you do not need to return the form, and your award will be extended by six months. You should get a letter confirming this. If you do not get a letter and are concerned that your award is running out soon, you can contact the DLA helpline.
It appears that the DWP intends to extend your AA award instead of asking you to make a new claim, but there is no information available about what you should do. If you already have an AA renewal claim form or your award is ending in less than six months, you can ask for advice by contacting the AA helpline.
Even if you are told that you do not have to, you can still choose to return a form. It is important to do this if your circumstances have changed, so that you may now qualify for a higher rate of benefit. See below for more information about changes of circumstances.
If you get DLA and have already been told to claim PIP
The DWP is moving people who were younger than 65 on 8 April 2013 to PIP. This normally happens when you turn 16, or when your DLA award is due to end. It appears that the DWP intends to extend your DLA award by six months if it is due to end, and not transfer you to PIP. You should be notified of this in writing. If the DWP have not contacted you, however, check whether your award has been extended or not by contacting the DLA helpline. You should contact the helpline before the deadline given on the letter asking you to claim PIP.
You can choose to still claim PIP if you think that you will get more benefit than you currently do. It is important to get advice before you do this, because the DLA and PIP rules are completely different.
Once you have claimed PIP, the assessment process is normally the same as for new claims. At the time of writing the DWP is allowing you three months to return the questionnaire. If you need more time, or are concerned that your DLA award is going to end, you can contact the PIP helpline. Checking is important since the law allows for your DLA to be stopped if you do not return the questionnaire or take part in a PIP assessment. If that happens, you can challenge this decision.
See above for more about how a new PIP claim is assessed.
If there is a change in your circumstances
You can still report a change in your circumstances if your needs have changed. If you can, get advice about whether you are likely to qualify for more benefit before you report the change. That is because the DWP may decide that your award should decrease, even if you think that your award should increase. If your award is reduced or stopped, you can challenge this decision.
Letters about your benefit will explain what changes you have to report. If you are unsure whether a change will affect your benefit, get advice. It is particularly important to get advice before reporting a change if you get DLA and you are 16 or over and were born after 8 April 1948. This is because if you report a change you may have to claim PIP instead of DLA, and the rules about how much benefit you get are different.
You can report a change by contacting the helpline for the benefit you are claiming. If you report a change of circumstances, you are normally sent a form to complete. A decision is unlikely to be made until you return the form, which is similar to the DLA or AA claim form or the PIP2 questionnaire that you will have already completed when you first claimed the benefit. See above for how to complete the form.
For DLA or AA you should return the form as soon as you can, but there is normally no deadline to do so. Check the letter for when you need to return the form.
For PIP, if you do not return the questionnaire then your current award can be stopped. The deadline is currently three months. You can check that this is still the case, or ask for extra time, by contacting the PIP enquiry line.
If the DWP decides to carry out an assessment
Normally, if you claim PIP or your award is being reviewed, you are assessed face to face by a health professional. The DWP can do a similar assessment if you claim DLA or AA but is less likely to do so. All face-to-face assessments are currently suspended, although at the time of writing this policy is under review.
Personal independence payment
The DWP can still carry out a PIP assessment by phone. Your claim can be refused or your award ended if you refuse to take part in a telephone assessment. If you cannot take part or need extra help to do so, you should explain this as soon as possible, using the contact details on the letter telling you about the appointment.
If you get a decision refusing you PIP because you did not take part in an assessment, you can challenge this decision.
Disability living allowance or attendance allowance
The DWP can contact you by phone to ask additional questions if you have claimed DLA or AA but is less likely to do so. If you want the DWP to talk to someone else or need help to explain your needs, explain that if you are contacted.
If your benefit is stopped
If you get a decision saying that your benefit is stopping or being reduced, you can challenge this decision. First you should request a mandatory reconsideration. You can then appeal if the decision is not changed.
Your benefit may be stopped if you have not returned a form or taken part in an assessment. You can challenge that decision by explaining the reasons why you did not return the form or take part in the assessment. For example, perhaps you did not get the letter telling you about the appointment, you received the letter but did not understand it, or you were ill at the time arranged. Explain if you were following advice given by the DWP about not needing to return a form or go to an assessment.