Preparing for your PIP consultation
Unless you have a terminal illness you’ll usually have to have a face to face consultation to complete your Personal Independence Payment (PIP) application. It’s an opportunity for you to talk about how your condition affects you - it's not a diagnosis of your condition or a medical examination.
It’s important that you prepare for your consultation because it’s part of the evidence the PIP case manager uses to decide whether or not you can get PIP.
Arranging your face to face consultation
The assessment provider in Northern Ireland is Capita.
If they decide that they need more evidence than you have submitted, they will write to your GP or another professional who you have said can give medical evidence.
Capita will decide whether you need to have a face to face consultation with a health professional.
They will send you a letter to explain what will happen next. They will ask if you if you prefer to be contacted in an alternative format, eg braille, electronic text. They will ask you if you need anything at your consultation, like an interpreter.
Within two weeks you will get another letter telling you the date, time and location of your consultation. It will also ask you to bring any further medical evidence to the consultation.
There are assessment centres throughout Northern Ireland. They are all accessible. You can also request to have your consultation at home.
If the appointment doesn’t suit you, contact the Capita Enquiry Centre on 0808 1788116. They can only rearrange the appointment once.
Also contact the Enquiry Centre if you have any questions or requests about the consultation. Check that they will have everything you need on the day of the consultation. This can help make you feel more comfortable on the day. For example:
- ask how roomy the centre is if you get anxious in enclosed spaces - if the rooms or corridors are small, tell them this could make you anxious and see what they can offer you
- ask for an interpreter or signer if you need one - do this at least 2 working days before your assessment so they have time to organise it
- ask for the person carrying out the consultation to be the same gender as you, if you have religious or cultural reasons why this is important to you
- ask if you can make an audio recording of the consultation - you must ask to do this before your consultation and ask the centre about the rules for using recording equipment
You will get a reminder letter about your consultation a week before your appointment and, if you have given them your mobile number, a text three days before.
How to ask for an adjustment
To ask for an adjustment, phone the Capita Enquiry Centre on 0808 1788116. If you ask for an adjustment and it’s not made, this could be discrimination - contact your local Citizens Advice for more help.
At the consultation
You will need to bring identity documents with you to your appointment. You can find a list of them in your appointment letter.
A Capita health professional will carry out your consultation. Before the consultation starts they will explain the process to you and give you the chance to ask any questions. The consultation will take about an hour.
You should be prepared to talk about how your condition affects you even if you’ve already detailed it on your PIP claim form. It can be hard to do this but it will really help if you can talk about:
- the kind of things you have difficulty with, or can’t do at all - for example, walking up steps without help or remembering to go to appointments
- how your condition affects you from day to day
- what a bad day is like for you - for example, ‘On a bad day, I can’t walk at all because my injured leg hurts so much’ or ‘On a bad day, I’m so depressed I can’t concentrate on anything’
It’s a good idea to take a copy of your PIP claim form with you. That way you can refer to it in the consultation and make sure you tell the assessor everything you want them to know about your condition.
Help sheet for the day of your consultation
Don’t let the assessor rush you and try not to just answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to their questions. Always try to explain how doing something would make you feel afterwards and the impact it can have on you if you had to do it repeatedly in a short period of time.
Print it out and take it with you. It includes tips on what to take to your consultation and dos and don’ts during the consultation.
Observations on what you say and do during the consultation
The assessor will use the information you gave on your PIP claim form but also draw opinions from what you say and do on the day. For example, they might ask you how you got to the assessment centre. If you say you came on the bus, they’ll make a note that you can travel alone on public transport.
They may ask you to have a physical examination or to carry out some physical tasks during the consultation.
- You won’t be asked to do anything that hurts or is uncomfortable
- You won’t be asked to take off your clothes
Don’t feel you have to do things in the consultation that you wouldn’t normally be able to do. If you do them on the consultation day, the assessor may think you can always do them. If you’re not comfortable with something, say so.
Take someone with you for support
You can take someone with you into the actual consultation. This could be anyone who makes you feel more comfortable, like a friend, relative or carer. If you want, they can take part in discussions and take notes for you, and if they are over 18 they can interpret for you.
Warning: you must go to your consultation
You must go to your consultation otherwise your PIP claim will be rejected and you’ll have to start the application process all over again.
Contact the the Capita Enquiry Centre straight away if you can’t make your appointment or if you’ve already missed it. It can be rescheduled once. The number to contact is on your appointment letter.
If you need to change it a second time, you will have to have a good reason. The PIP Centre will make the decision. There are no rules on what is a good reason for missing an appointment, but they should take into account your health and things that may affect you like a family bereavement.
If your PIP claim is rejected because you missed your appointment, you can challenge this decision. You must have been given at least 7 days’ written notice of the assessment date (unless you agreed to a shorter notice period).
The cost of the journey from your home to the assessment centre (and back again), parking and fuel can be reimbursed. If you take someone with you to the consultation, their travel costs can be reimbursed but only if they travel with you. If you need to bring young children with you because there is no one to look after them, you can claim their fares too.
You can’t get your travel expenses paid before the consultation and you can’t be reimbursed for things like meals and loss of earnings.
If you travel by taxi, you must get the Capita Enquiry Centre to approve the use of the taxi before your consultation. If you don’t, they may not reimburse the fare.
If you travel by car, the cost of parking can be reimbursed and there is a mileage allowance towards the cost of fuel. This will be included on the expenses form you get at the same time as the letter confirming your appointment.
How to claim travel expenses
You will be sent an expenses claim form and guidance along with your appointment letter. Be sure to keep all your tickets and receipts to send in with the claim form.
If you have given Capita your bank account details and you have followed their guidelines for what you can claim, they can make a payment directly into your account within 14 days of receiving your claim.
Further information is available on the Capita PIP website and on the government website at www.nidirect.gov.uk.