PIP Descriptor 9 is about engaging with other people
The Court of Session recently made a decision ( CSIH 57) that will help PIP claimants who, because of a physical or mental condition, need social support to engage with other people. The Court also clarified the meaning of "prompting" under Descriptor 1 (preparing food). Although this is a Scottish Court, it’s decision affects the law in the whole U.K.
The claimant in this case was a man who suffered from depression and avoided social contact. He would often have his partner with him when meeting other people.
PIP Descriptor 9 is about engaging with other people. You can get 2 points under this descriptor if you can show you need prompting to able to engage with other people. You can get 4 points if you can show you need social support. The Court in this case said that the meanings of "prompting" and "social support" overlap; they are similar. Both can include encouraging someone, reassuring them or providing help.
There were 2 big questions for the judges to decide in this case:
1. Does social support in Descriptor 9 need to be given at the same time as the claimant is engaging with others? Or does social support, given before the claimant meets or speaks to other people, count?
2. What is the difference between "prompting" in Descriptor 9b and "social support" in 9c?
WHAT THE COURT DECIDED
On the first question, the Court said that social support counts if it's given at the same time as the claimant is engaging with others AND if it's given BEFORE the claimant engages with others.
For example, the claimant might need advice or encouragement from a helper or psychologist before he goes into a meeting with other people. The Court said that it still counts as social support even if the helper isn't in the meeting at the same time as the claimant.
The social support doesn't count if it was given too long ago in the past though. For example, if the claimant got psychological help in the past and after that, didn't need any more help to engage with other people, this doesn't count as "needing social support" now.
The Court also said that if a claimant needs prompting to engage with others (Descriptor 9b) or to prepare food (Descriptor 1d), then this prompting can be given in advance too, before the claimant is actually engaging with others or preparing food. The prompting (e.g. a helper leaving a recipe or ingredients for the claimant to use) does not need to happen at the same time or immediately before the cooking; the prompting can happen in the morning, ready for the claimant to cook alone in the evening, for example.
On the second question, the Court said that "social support" is more than "prompting". "Social support" comes from a person who is trained or experienced in helping the claimant engage with others. For someone's help to count as "social support" and not just "prompting", there must be some need for the helper to be specially trained or experienced. An example is getting help to engage with others from a trained psychologist. This is different from just "prompting" in Descriptor 9b, which does not require the person prompting to have any special training or experience. It might be helpful to remember that social support can come from family members or friends who are "experienced" in helping you engage with others, even if they have no professional training or qualifications.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU
If you need help to engage with/ meet and talk to other people, it might be helpful to tell the tribunal in detail about who helps you, what their experience or training (if any) is and how they help you. You could tell the tribunal about when they help you. Are they with you when you meet others? If you sometimes engage with other people on your own without someone else there, do you need help or encouragement before you go out and meet people? It might be useful to tell the tribunal about that.
If you need prompting to prepare food, remember it still counts even when the prompting is given a while before the preparing and cooking food takes place.
To help you decide if you need "prompting" (Descriptor 9b) or "social support" (Descriptor 9c), it might be useful to think about whether you need someone with special training or experience to help you engage with others. Remember that this could be a family member with experience in helping you engage with others. Or social support could come from, for example, a psychologist. If your helper has special training or experience on helping you engage with others, then this is more likely to be "social support". If you can engage with other people with someone else's help, but it doesn't matter if they have special training or experience, then this is more likely to be "prompting" (Descriptor 9b).
So it might be useful to tell the tribunal if the person who helps you engage with others has any special training or experience. It might also be useful to tell the tribunal if you usually get help from the same person when you're engaging with other people and to tell the tribunal how long that person has been helping you for and how often they help you. If you usually get help from the same person when you meet others, this could show that your helper has experience even if they have no professional qualifications.
The Court made this decision on 24 August 2017 but it’s a clarification of the law rather than a new definition. This means that this decision applies straightaway to your claim, mandatory reconsiderations and appeals, whenever the case was decided. It may take some months before DWP and assessors catch up with this decision, however.
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You can read the full judgement here:
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