Q4: eating and drinking
What this question means
This question is about how your condition makes it difficult for you to eat and drink.
This means being able to cut up food into pieces, put it in your mouth, chew and swallow it.
You should say if you need prompting or reminding to eat, as well if you have physical difficulties.
Do you use an aid or appliances to eat or drink?
Do you use a feeding tube or similar device to eat or drink?
Do you need help from another person to eat or drink?
You should probably tick "yes" if:
- someone reminds, encourages or supervises you
- someone physically helps you
- someone stays near you to make sure you’re safe or not at risk
- you need help but you don't get it - for example you forget to eat or you have an eating disorder
Extra information: what to write
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 eat and drink. 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.
You use a tube feed system
If you use a feeding tube into your stomach, or a feeding line into your veins, consider whether you need any help with this.
You’re more likely to get PIP if someone helps you, so it’s important to say:
- who helps you
- how they help you
- what would happen if you didn’t have the help
Aids you use
Think about what aids you need to eat and drink including things like weighted cups and adapted cutlery. It might help to imagine eating out or at a friend’s house instead of your own.
List all the things you use and why you need them - for example if you have to use a bowl instead of a plate to avoid spilling your food.
Never miss an aid off your list because you think it's obvious, and always:
- explain how they help you
- explain what would happen it you didn't use them
- make it clear if a health professional advised you to use them
- include any aids that would help you if you had them
- include any aids that your condition prevents you from using
Someone physically helps you
If someone helps you to eat or drink, explain what they do and why.
If you need someone to help you cut up your food then explain why they need to, and what would happen if they didn't.
Also explain if you avoid eating any particular types of food because it needs to be cut up, or it's too fiddly. For example if you don't eat fish because of the bones but you could if someone cut it up and de-boned it for you
If you can't get food or drink to your mouth at all and someone has to do this for you, explain who does this for you, why they need to, and what would happen if they didn't.
If you can't feed yourself then you should definitely get PIP.
Someone supervises you for your safety
This means that someone is with you when you eat or drink. They don't have to be constantly watching you - they just have to be around. For example, this could be because you're at risk of choking.
If you've had problems with eating and drinking in the past, say what happened and why - for example if you had an epileptic fit while eating.
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
Someone prompts, reminds or encourages you
Think about whether you ever skip meals. This could be for many reasons such as:
trying to eat causes you pain or leaves you exhausted
you can’t face it
the thought makes you anxious
If you don’t eat regular meals, try to explain why and how often this happens. Try to be specific about whether you’re prompted, reminded or encouraged, and who does this.
Here are some examples:
‘I'm recovering from an eating disorder, and although I think I'm getting better I find it hard to eat more than once a day and I very rarely eat breakfast or lunch.
My partner has to talk me into eating a meal and usually has to make it as I wouldn't prepare anything for myself. She makes sure I eat most evening meals, but if she's not there I don't bother.'
'My medication makes me feel queasy and sometimes it makes me sick after I've eaten. I try to put off eating in case it makes me ill. My mum tries to come round most days to check up on me and see that I've eaten. I'll eat because she's there telling me to, but I'll avoid it if I can.'
Time it takes
Think about whether it takes you at least twice as long to eat and drink 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 it depends what you try to eat, or your condition fluctuates.
include the time for breaks if you can't eat a meal in one go
explain if it takes you even longer on a bad day
- explain if it takes longer to eat later in the day, or when you're tired
Good days and bad days
Explain how you cope on both good days and bad days 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 days
- what extra difficulties and symptoms you experience on a bad day - for example you find it very difficult to swallow and can't finish a meal
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, breathlessness, anxiety and tiredness
Explain whether the difficulties you have eating or drinking cause you any physical or mental symptoms (like pain, discomfort, tiredness or feeling down).
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