Group File 31. (CPIP/3707/2016) which makes law clearer for claimants with difficulty interacting with others.
PIP Descriptor 9(b) says that people who need prompting to be able to engage with other people can claim 2 points. PIP Descriptor 9(c) says that people who need social support to be able to engage with other people can claim 4 points.
BuDS has previously posted a summary of the situations that would be covered by PIP Descriptor 9 [Group File 23].
In this case, the claimant had a severe visual impairment and said he was unable to see people who he was speaking to and unable to see body language, which he said was a barrier when engaging with others. He also said that he had difficulty establishing relationships. The First-Tier Tribunal did not make an award of PIP daily living and the claimant appealed to the Upper Tribunal.
WHAT THE UPPER TRIBUNAL DECIDED
The Upper Tribunal said that the First-Tier Tribunal did not properly look at how the claimant would engage with others he does not know well, or how we would read body language in a social setting, given his visual impairment.
The Upper Tribunal didn’t make any new rules, but did list a set of principles already set by other UT decisions. The UT stressed that these principles apply *equally* both to individuals with a severe visual impairment and individuals without such impairment. It said that the First-Tier Tribunal did not properly consider the following:
(1) PIP Descriptor 9 can apply to individuals with either mental health or physical health issues or both. A person with severe visual impairment therefore may be able to claim points under PIP Descriptor 9.
(2) Engaging face-to-face means engaging on a one-to-one basis or within a *small* group and does not include engaging on the telephone.
(3) PIP Descriptor 9 does include the ability to “engage socially” . This means a claimant’s ability to interact with others in an appropriate manner, understand body language and establish relationships in a social context. For a claimant with a severe visual impairment, this means asking whether the claimant: a. can detect body language at a close distance or face-to-face on a one-to-one basis or in a small group OR b. because of the visual impairment, needs prompting (explaining) most of the time. (4) It needs to be considered whether claimants need social support to be able to engage with other people. Social support means “support from a person trained or experienced in assisting people to engage in social situations”. It does not include *prior* social support needed to get the claimant to the point when they can engage with other people alone. Instead, “social support” refers to the support needed *during* the activity of engaging with other people.
(5) Engaging with other people means people generally, not just people who the claimant knows well. This meant that although the claimant was able to visit a pub with a friend, this did not necessarily mean he had no claim under PIP Descriptor 9. After all, the Upper Tribunal said, it is possible or even likely that the claimant was interacting only with people he knew at the pub.
The Upper Tribunal also said that the fact that the claimant was able to engage well at a tribunal hearing (when accompanied by his sister and a representative) does not necessarily show how he might engage socially when not accompanied.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU
This decision confirms that individuals with a severe visual impairment may be able to claim points under PIP Descriptor 9(b) (the claimant needs prompting) and 9(c) (the claimant needs social support), in the same way as individuals without a severe visual impairment.
Note that your limited ability to interact with others socially must be a consequence of your visual impairment; being shy, for example, is not enough to claim points under PIP Descriptor 9 as you must make it clear how your impairment affects your engaging with others.
Useful phrases to use might be: ‘My severe visual impairment means I am unable to understand body language or facial expressions so I have to rely on the prompting or support (whichever applies) of another person when interacting with others’. ’I am unable to tell whether someone is talking to me or offering me a handshake so I have to rely on the prompting or support (whichever applies) of another person when interacting with others’. It might also be useful to give examples of when you have interacted with unfamiliar people while relying on the prompting (explaining) or social support of another person, and how successful this was.
Remember that even if you are able to go to the pub or other public places, you may still be able to claim points under PIP Descriptor 9. This is because ‘other people’ in PIP Descriptor 9 includes strangers and not just familiar people.
The Upper Tribunal made this decision on 30 May 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.
You can read the full judgement here: https://www.gov.uk/…/dv-v-secretary-of-state-for-work-and-p…
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