Preparing for your PIP assessment
Unless you have a terminal illness you’ll usually have to have a face to face assessment 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 - the Department of Communities (DfC) will use evidence from the assessment to decide if you can get PIP.
A health professional will carry out your assessment - they’ll write a report and send it to the DfC. The assessment will take about an hour.
The assessment provider in Northern Ireland is Capita.
Talking about how your condition affects you
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'll 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 assessment 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 assessment
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 assessment that you wouldn’t normally be able to do. If you do them on the assessment day, the assessor may think you can always do them. If you’re not comfortable with something - say so.
The assessor will also make a note of your mental state during the assessment - for example, they’ll record whether you look depressed or happy, tense or relaxed and how you cope with social interaction.
Take someone with you for support
You can take someone with you into the actual assessment. 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.
If a carer, relative or appointee comes to the assessment with the claimant but doesn't want to speak about them at the assessment, they can ask to speak to the assessor separately or ring Capita later.
Ask for an adjustment
Check with Capita that your assessment centre has everything you need - if it doesn’t, you can ask for it. 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 assessment to be the same gender as you, if that’s important to you
- ask if you can make an audio recording of the assessment - you must do this before your assessment and ask your provider about the rules for using recording equipment
All the assessment centres in Northern Ireland are accessible.
Changing the venue
If the location of your assessment is more than 90 minutes away by public transport and you have difficulty travelling long distances, you might be offered an alternative location or home visit.
You can request a home visit. You’ll have to provide Capita with a letter from your doctor giving medical evidence that you need one.
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.
Warning: you must go to your assessment
You must go to your assessment 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 on 0808 1788 116 straight away if you can’t make your appointment or if you’ve already missed it. It can be rescheduled once.
If you need to change it a second time, you will have to have a good reason. The DfC will make the decision. 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 assessment, 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 assessment, 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 assessment 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 assessment. 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'll be included on the expenses form you get at the same time as the letter confirming your appointment.
How to claim travel expenses
You'll 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've given Capita your bank account details and you've followed their guidelines for what you can claim, they can make a payment directly into your account within 14 days of receiving your claim.
Find out more about your assessment
You can find out more about how Capita will run your assessment and how they can support you on their website.