Can you have a companion with you for your PIP consultation?

Many of the people who claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will need to have a face-to-face consultation as part of the PIP assessment process. We just want to make sure that you know that you are welcome to have a companion with you during your consultation.Atos Healthcare PIP support

A companion can be anyone you choose: from a friend or family member to a support worker or carer. We know that having someone with you can help to make attending a consultation much less stressful. If your consultation is at one of our consultation centres a companion can also provide practical or emotional support while you are travelling and whilst waiting to go in.

Can the companion contribute during the consultation?

With your permission, your companion may be able to provide a valuable contribution to the discussion with the health professional (HP) in helping you to answer their questions. For example, if you have mental, cognitive impairment or learning difficulties a companion may be able to help you to give an accurate account of how your health condition or disability impacts on your daily life.

Atos Healthcare PIP CompanionThe HP will be keen to hear extra information from your companion but it is important to note that the consultation and discussion will always be focused towards you as it is essential that the HP’s advice is based on your circumstances.

Whether you choose to bring someone with you just for company, for practical support or to help you during the consultation please just let the HP know who they are and how you would like them to be involved.

Share this post

The role of observation in the Personal Independence Payment assessment

An aspect of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment that is sometimes misunderstood is how informal observations are taken into account. The PIP Assessment Guide, produced by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), is very explicit about this (we have included the relevant extract at the end of this blog post).

Why do observations form part of the Personal Independence Payment assessment?

The role of observation in the Personal Independence Payment AssessmentInformal observations form part of the PIP assessment because they can add to the information that is available to the HP for them to be able to provide a report to the DWP. They may, for example, indicate that you have problems that you haven’t referred to elsewhere, or give a clearer indication of how you are affected by certain aspects of your disability or illness. It is important to remember that PIP is concerned with your needs as a result of your disability or illness, rather than the disability or illness itself.

Observations will only be made by the HP while they are with you during a face-to-face consultation. They won’t be made through things such as CCTV or observation of the car park through a window. They also won’t be done by anyone other than the HP, such as a receptionist.

How observations are used in the Personal Independence Payment assessment

If you are observed to do something by the HP it does not mean that they will assume that you can always do that. The PIP assessment takes into account that some conditions can fluctuate, and that whether you can do something reliably is important. We have covered on this blog previously both how fluctuating conditions are handled under PIP and how the reliability criteria are applied.

HPs will always consider informal observations in the context of fluctuations in someone’s condition. However, if the observations are inconsistent with what has been claimed in the ‘how your disability affect you’ form then the HP will have to use their judgement about what weight to apply to them.

We know that some people are advised by others to explain how they are affected by their illness or disability as if every day is like their worst. If you say in your ‘How your disability affects you’ form that you can never complete a particular task, but you are then seen doing so by the HP, this may be viewed as inconsistent. If your condition fluctuates you are always better explaining how it fluctuates in terms of things like good days vs bad days per week or per year.

Extract from the DWP PIP Assessment Guide, 27th May 2014

Informal observations

  • 2.6.24. Throughout the consultation, the HP should be making informal observations and evaluating any functional limitations described by the claimant. Informal observations start from “meeting and greeting” (where HPs may be able to observe the claimant’s appearance, manner, hearing ability, walking ability) and continue throughout history taking. The claimant’s mood, powers of concentration and ability to stand, sit, move around freely and use their hands should be observed. They may also be observed performing activities such as bending down to retrieve objects such as a handbag on the floor beside them, or reaching out for an object such as their medication.
  • 2.6.25. HPs may note how claimants stand and mobilise to any examination couch and observe the ease with which they get on and off the couch. How does the claimant remove their clothes or shoes? Informal observations should be recorded in the report, for example: “I observed the claimant… and they appeared to have no difficulty with…”; “I saw the claimant lean heavily on a walking stick to cover the distance to the consulting room”.
  • 2.6.26. The HP should note any aids or appliances in evidence, such as a walking aid, and the extent to which they are used during the consultation. Aids are devices that help a performance of a function, for example walking sticks or spectacles. Appliances are devices that provide or replace a missing function, for example artificial limbs, wheelchairs, or collecting devices for stomas.
  • 2.6.27. The HP’s informal observations will also help check the consistency of evidence on the claimant’s functional ability. For example, there is an inconsistency of evidence if a claimant bends down to retrieve a handbag from the floor but then later during formal assessment of the spine, declines to bend at all on the grounds of pain or if the claimant states that they have no mobility problems but they appear to struggle to walk to the consulting room. In deciding their advice, the HP will need to weigh this inconsistency, and decide, with full reasoning, which observation should apply.


Share this post

Atos Healthcare’s role in the delivery of Personal Independence Payment

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has been designed by the Government to help with some of the extra costs associated with long-term ill health or a disability for those aged between 16 and 64. It has been introduced as a replacement for Disability Living Allowance (DLA). The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have overall responsibility for PIP, and directly manage the claim, decision making and payments part of it, as well as the overall policy that sets out how it works. The assessment part of the PIP process, which happens when you first claim PIP as well as periodically while you receive it, is managed by assessment providers, one of which is Atos Healthcare (we cover Scotland, the north of England and the south of England including London).

The role of the PIP assessment provider

As an assessment provider it is our job to provide an independent assessment of the impact that a claimant’s health condition or disability has on their daily life. The report we provide for DWP for any PIP claimant has to be objective and unbiased. Each assessment report is produced by a Health Professional qualified in disability assessment. They could be Nurses, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Doctors or Paramedics.

The information used to write the report could come from various places, such as:

  • your completed ‘How your disability affects you’ form
  • Any other relevant information you provided with your form
  • Information that we ask for and receive from people involved in your care,
  • A face-to-face consultation with you (if the other information isn’t enough).
  • Information provided by DWP

All this information is considered by the Health Professional so that they can provide a report to the DWP decision maker that explains what it all means in relation to the PIP criteria (also known as the descriptors). The decision maker uses the report along with the rest of the information to decide whether the PIP criteria are met and, if so, to what extent, so that they can make an award.

How do we fulfil our role?

Atos Healthcare is responsible for the assessment phase. This includes all of the administrative tasks (such as receiving referrals from DWP, moving them along the different stages, issuing letters to claimants and requesting information) and the assessment itself (including the face-to-face consultations and paper based reviews and reports). We work closely with DWP to ensure that any changes that DWP make to the policy are reflected in the way we are carrying out the PIP assessments. DWP also set targets for us in areas such as quality of both service and reports and the time within which we should provide them with a report after they have sent a referral to us. However, we don’t have any targets relating to the type of advice we provide or the decisions that DWP ultimately make on claims.

You can find more detailed information about the different parts of the PIP assessment process for our areas on our website, as well as by looking at other blog posts here.  The infographic below might also help you to identify who you need to contact with any questions that you might have.


Personal Independence Payment: Who to contact with questions. Click to enlarge

A version of this infographic with audio description is available on our YouTube channel

Share this post

What to have with you for a PIP consultation?

One of the key things people want to know before their Personal Independence Payment (PIP) consultation is what they should have with them.

It is important that you can prove your identity when you attend a PIP consultation, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will not allow us to proceed with the consultation if you are unable to prove your identity. It is also important that you can explain to the Health Professional how your condition or disability affects you in daily life.

Why you should bring your appointment letter?

The appointment letter gives you exact details of where to go for your consultation and the phone number of the customer service centre should you need to contact us.

What is suitable for Proof of Identity?

We are required by DWP to carry out a proof of identity check when you have a consultation. Suitable proof is two types of identification from the list below.

  • PassportAtos-Healthcare- proof-of-identity
  • UK driving license
  • UK travel pass with photograph
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Debit/credit card
  • Council tax demand
  • UK utility bill
  • Council/housing association rent or tenancy agreement document
  • Foreign national ID card
  • Evidence of entitlement to state or local authority benefit

In some circumstances we will be able to verify your identity without these documents but it is far easier and quicker if you bring the appropriate documents.

Bringing a Companion

You are encouraged to bring a companion or support worker who knows your situation well with you to your consultation. They can also participate in the consultation itself (if you like) and are frequently helpful in ensuring that the HP gets a full understanding of your situation.

Bringing Additional Supporting Materials

You may have already provided evidence that you had when you completed and returned the ‘How Your Disability Affects You’ form to DWP. The Health Professional will have access to this information at the time of your consultation.

However, you can bring new or additional information with you to the consultation. Of particular value will be:

  • Tablets and other current medication, such as inhalersAtos-Healthcare-hearing-aid
  • Any medical aids, such as walking aids, hearing aids, glasses and contact lenses
    which you would normally use or take with you if going out. You don’t need to bring any aids or adaptations you only use at home however, but the HP will want to talk about these during the assessment
  • Any extra medical information, such as test results, or letters which you have from GPs or specialists about your disability or condition, which you’ve not already provided as part of your claim. Anything you have already sent to DWP will be on the system and the HP will be able to see them

You can also see more information on the additional evidence blog

Share this post

When would you have a consultation at home for PIP?

Most people who claim Personal Independence Payment will need to have a face to face consultation as part of the assessment process.  A consultation may not be needed if enough supporting information is available for a report to be completed by a Heath Professional and sent to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Atos-Healthcare-pip-home-consultation-front-doorWhere does Atos Healthcare carry out PIP consultations?

For people who do need to be seen in person most consultations take place in one of the consultation centres around the country.  However, if it is clear from the information that we have that travelling to a consultation centre would cause significant distress we will automatically arrange for the consultation to take place in the claimant’s home.

If someone is given an appointment in a consultation centre, but does not think that they would be able to attend due to their health problems, they may still contact us and request a home consultation. All claimants are treated as individuals and the offer of home consultations is done on a case by case basis.

How a home consultation decision is made

A consultation will take place at your home if you are unable to travel to a centre due to your illness or disability.  This would apply if, for example, your GP needs to see you in your home rather than their surgery.  It is worth saying though that even if you do travel to your GP surgery it does not mean you won’t be eligible for a home consultation.Atos-Healthcare-pip-home-consultation-contact-us

Other reasons why you might have a home consultation

A small number of home consultations may take place for reasons other than your inability to travel.  For example, this might be because you live in one of the small number of places where there isn’t a consultation centre within 90 minutes travel time by public transport.  A list of all of our PIP consultation centres can be found on our website.

Share this post