PIP: digital forms and online claims
Some personal independence payment (PIP) claimants can now complete all or part of their application online. Confusingly, there are two separate initiatives at work. Carri Swann explains.
Most advisers who support PIP claimants will now have come across a digital version of the PIP2 ‘How Your Disability Affects You’ form. As of December 2021, the form is offered to everyone who makes a new PIP claim by telephone on their own behalf.1There is currently no digital equivalent of the AR1 (the shorter Award Review – How Your Disability Affects You form).
At the point when they would otherwise be posted a paper copy of the PIP2 form, they can instead choose to be emailed a link to an online version.
Some key points to note about the e-PIP2 are that:
•getting one is optional. The DWP has also told stakeholder forums that if a claimant chooses to get the online form, but struggles with it, s/he can call the PIP enquiry line (not the new claims line) and will be sent a paper replacement;
•the e-PIP2 is, or should be, identical to the paper PIP2. If you spot a difference between how a question is phrased in the online form and in the paper version, please contact CPAG’s Early Warning System ();
using the e-PIP2 is not the same as making an online claim
. The PIP2 form, in any format, is a request for supporting information for the PIP claim: it is not a claim form (that is form PIP1). Confusion on this point has certainly not been helped by the Disability, Health and Work Minister describing the PIP2 as a claim form.2Justin Tomlinson, Disability, Health and Work Minister, in written answer UIN 134173, House of Commons, 6 January 2021, available at
To use the digital form, claimants will need to set up a password. They can save each answer as they go through, and can use their password to return to the form later. If you are helping a claimant to complete her/his form, and your organisation has a policy about storing clients’ passwords, this new feature might present difficulties.
Once the form is completed, advisers and claimants must not miss their chance to save a copy. The page which acknowledges that a form has been submitted currently states: ‘You will not be able to download your completed form after you leave this page.’ This approach is unfortunate, particularly given that early research by the DWP showed that ‘there was strong demand for a hard copy record of any online application to be posted out’.3L Adams and others, Personal Independence Payment User-centred Design: Strand 1 report, DWP Research Report No.794, 2012
Apply for PIP
A second development, separate from the introduction of the e-PIP2, is the trial of a fully online PIP application platform
. The service on trial was first described to stakeholders as Get Your PIP, and is now being called Apply for PIP. This has been a source of some confusion, since the e-PIP2 has also been publicised under the heading Apply for PIP or PIP Apply. The England-only pilot started on 26 January 2022 for an initial period of six months, with just 10 new PIP claimants a day being invited to take part. Claimants on Apply for PIP will use the online platform to verify their identity, complete the ‘claim’ part of the application process, answer questions about their health, and upload their supporting evidence. Apply for PIP therefore replaces both the PIP1 form (or equivalent phone conversation) and the PIP2 form. Beyond this, very little information is publicaly available about how the trial version of Apply for PIP looks or runs.4At the time of writing, CPAG has asked the DWP for a walk-through of the trial version of Apply for PIP.
An online application process has been part of the plan for PIP since before the benefit was introduced. Early DWP research showed that prospective claimants were concerned about systems crashing, information being lost, and important documents not being sent out in hard copy.5L Adams and others, Personal Independence Payment User-centred Design: Strand 1 report, DWP Research Report No.794, 2012
It is not yet clear if or how Apply for PIP addresses these concerns.
It is critical to note that claimants using Apply for PIP cannot necessarily rely on their claims running from the date they phone the PIP new claims line. Instead, the effective date of claim is likely to be the date that a claimant completes the ‘claim’ part of the online process.6Reg 12(1)(a) The Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Claims and Payments) Regulations 2013 No.380. See also GDC v SSWP (UC)  UKUT 108 (AAC)
It is also clear that the questions about health and disability on Apply for PIP could be different from the ones asked in the current PIP2 form. The DWP team developing Apply for PIP has told stakeholder groups that it recognises shortcomings of the PIP2, and is looking at different questions that could work better at getting relevant information from claimants.7See also J Schofield and S Hurst, ‘We need to talk about...designing difficult conversations in services’, DWP Digital blog, 22 March 2016
It is not yet clear if these changes feature in the trial version of Apply for PIP.
Digital by choice?
Use of the e-PIP2 and participation in the Apply for PIP pilot are both voluntary.8DWP, Touchbase, 28 January 2022
Advisers might justifiably be concerned about whether PIP will stay ‘digital by choice’ in the long term, or whether it will become ‘digital by default’, in line with the DWP’s Digital Strategy9DWP, Digital Strategy, 20 December 2012
and like universal credit. For now, DWP stakeholder groups have been told that the plan is to keep any online PIP claims process optional, in line with the DWP Digital Service Standard and its emphasis on user needs.
Unfortunately, CPAG’s Early Warning System has already heard about claimants being refused a replacement paper version of the e-PIP2 form after struggling with the digital one. Reports like these suggest that the right to choose a non-digital method and the emphasis on user needs can be undermined in practice.
The future for PIP online
The e-PIP2 form has been described as a short-term measure prompted (or expedited) by the pandemic. In the longer term, the DWP’s goal is to offer everyone who applies for PIP the option of making their whole claim online, using Apply for PIP or something similar.
The version of Apply for PIP currently on trial is not the version that might eventually be offered to every claimant. It is what the DWP has described as a ‘minimum viable product’, and the six-month trial is supposed to show how it can be improved.
Any adviser with experience supporting a client through the Apply to PIP process is asked to contact the author with their comments (email@example.com) as well as using the Beta link at the top of the Apply for PIP web pages to send feedback directly to the DWP.10See