Q3: preparing and cooking a meal
What this question means
This question is about how your condition makes it difficult for you to:
- prepare a simple meal for one
- heat it on a hob or in a microwave until it's safe to eat
The hob or microwave must be at waist height so the DWP is not interested in any difficulties you have bending down.
It’s unlikely your idea of a simple meal is the same as the government's. It’s helpful to base your answers on this example: peel, chop and boil 2 large potatoes, open a tin of sweetcorn and fry a small piece of meat or fish.
This question isn’t about whether you need to eat a special diet. It’s about your ability to carry out tasks to prepare and cook a simple meal, like turning on taps or using a cooker safely.
Tick box question 3a
Question 3a is: Does your condition affect you preparing food, or prevent you from doing so?
The options you can tick are either:
You should probably tick “Yes” if:
- you need to sit down while preparing or cooking - a stool or similar counts as an aid
- you have a prosthetic limb
- you take rest breaks while preparing or cooking
- you use an aid either all the time or sometimes
- you're likely to undercook or overcook your food
- someone helps, reminds, encourages, supervises or assists you
- someone stays with you or checks on you to make sure you're safe
- you're at risk of injury like burning or scalding
- you need help to read or understand numbers - for example, when following simple recipes or using timers
- you need help but don't get it
"Tell us about the difficulties you have with preparing food and how you manage them."
It’s important you tell the DWP more by explaining your situation in the box.
It’s your chance to give the DWP a true picture of how your condition affects your ability to prepare and cook a meal. They'll use this to decide if you get PIP.
You can also use this space to explain what help you need but don't get.
Aids you use
List all the aids you use including things like stools or prosthetic limbs.
Never miss an aid off your list because you think it's obvious, and always:
- explain how they help you
- explain what would happen if you didn't use them
- make it clear if a health professional advised you to use them
- include any that would help you if you had them
- include any that your condition prevents you from using
Explain if you use an aid to reduce mental or physical feelings (like pain, discomfort or tiredness) when preparing or cooking a meal. Make it clear if it only reduces that feeling and that you still experience something.
Someone reminds, encourages, supervises or assists you
Make it clear if you need help but don’t get it.
if you get help, say who helps you (for example, a relative or friend) and explain:
- why they help
- how they help
- how often they help
Make it clear if you need them to:
- remind you to prepare or cook a meal
- explain how to prepare or cook a meal
- physically help you
- help with all or some of a task
- help you all of the time or just sometimes (if it's too difficult to predict - say this)
- be on hand - for example, help only if needed or to make sure you're safe
Always explain what happens (or would happen) if you don't get help. For example:
- you're more likely to have an accident or injury
- you're more likely to experience physical or mental symptoms like pain, discomfort or tiredness
- it'll take you at least twice as long to prepare or cook a meal as someone without your condition
Safety: accidents or risk of injury
Tell the DWP if you have or are likely to injure yourself or someone else while preparing or cooking a meal. For example, tell them if you're likely to burn or cut yourself, fall over, undercook or overcook the food. Make sure you tell them if you think you might start a fire.
You should also mention:
- how often a risk happens, even if it doesn't happen regularly
- how badly you could be harmed
- whether there's anything you can do to prevent it happening
For example, you might have seizures that happen rarely but can start at any time with no warning. There's nothing you can do to prepare yourself and if one happened while you were cooking you could hurt yourself badly.
Make it clear if a risk is because:
- you didn’t get help or supervision
- you have trouble concentrating
- you get confused
Time it takes
Think about whether it takes you at least twice as long to prepare or cook a meal as someone without your condition.
Try to explain how long it takes. It's ok to estimate but say if you are. If it's too hard to estimate explain why - for example, because your condition fluctuates.
- include time for breaks if you need them
- explain if it takes you even longer on a bad day
- say if it takes longer if you have to do it repeatedly
Good days and bad days
Explain how you cope on both good days and bad and how you manage over a longer period of time (like a week). This gives the DWP a better picture of how you cope most of the time.
Make it clear:
- if you have good days and bad days
- how often you have bad days
- if you have bad days more often than not
- how your difficulties and symptoms differ on good days and bad - for example, you can't finish preparing a meal or you only use pre-chopped vegetables
It's ok to estimate your bad days but say if you are. If it's too difficult to estimate - explain why. For example, because your condition fluctuates.
Symptoms like pain or tiredness
Explain if the difficulties you have preparing or cooking a meal cause you any physical or mental symptoms (like pain, discomfort, tiredness or lack of motivation).
It's helpful to explain the symptoms and give an example, including:
- how often you have them
- how long they last
- if they're likely to increase the risk of an accident
- if they affect your ability to carry out any of the other activities on your PIP claim form
Brian can prepare his breakfast without help, but because this leaves him tired (physically and mentally) he can't prepare his lunch. On a bad day (which is about twice a week) he will often be too tired to get dressed or go outside.