Q9: communicating verbally

This advice applies to Wales. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland

What this question means

This question is about how your condition makes it difficult for you to:

  • speak to others so that you're understood

  • hear and understand what other people are saying to you

It doesn't matter whether English is your first language - you’ll be assessed on whether you have difficulties communicating in your first language.

If you're deaf or partially deaf this is the most important question on the form.

Tick box question 9a

"Does your condition affect you talking, listening and understanding?"

  • Yes

  • No

You should probably tick “Yes” if:

  • you need to use something to help you hear people - for example, a hearing aid or amplifier

  • you need to use something to help other people understand you - for example, an electro larynx or a pen and paper

  • you need to use something else to help you at home, for example a light-up doorbell or textphone

  • you use an aid either all the time or sometimes

  • you need an interpreter or signer

  • a friend or family member fills in the gaps in conversations

  • you lip-read

  • you have autism and find it difficult to communicate with people

  • you have Tourette’s syndrome

  • your medication makes it difficult to concentrate on a conversation

  • you need help but don't get it

Question 9b

"Tell us about the difficulties you have with talking, listening and understanding 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 communicate. 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.

Worth knowing

If your condition makes you anxious, or if you need someone to help calm you down or make sure you’re safe when you’re communicating with people, you should explain this in question 11 - mixing with other people.

Aids you use

List all the aids you use to help you to communicate like a hearing aid, amplifiers or a vibrating alarm.

Never miss an aid off your list because you think it's obvious, and always:

  • explain how they help you

  • make it clear if a health professional advised you to use them

  • include any that would help you if you had them, and why you don’t

  • include any that your condition prevents you from using

Someone 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, carer or friend) and explain:

  • why they help you

  • how they help you

  • how often they help 

Make it clear if you need them to:

  • explain what people are saying, or what you’re saying to them

  • interpret using sign language

  • be on hand - for example to make sure you feel safe

Always explain what happens (or would happen) if you don't get help. For example:

  • you wouldn't be able to follow a conversation

  • you’d avoid speaking to people

  • you'd misunderstand an important instruction

  • you'd forget what people have told you, or what you've said

  • you'd feel isolated

Time it takes

Think about whether it takes you at least twice as long to communicate as someone without your condition. This might sound difficult to estimate but consider whether things need to be repeated, or if conversations need to be slowed down so that you can understand.

Remember to:

  • include time for breaks in conversations if you need them

  • explain if it's slower on a bad day

  • say if it takes longer if you have to communicate a lot in one day

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 - for example, you feel so down you don't take in what people say

Symptoms like pain, breathlessness or tiredness

Explain whether the difficulties you have communicating 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 affect your ability to carry out any of the other activities on your PIP claim form


"I'm deaf, and sometimes I find it hard to make myself understood when I’m tired. When someone can’t understand me it gets me down and makes me want to not try anymore. I just stay at home and don’t get dressed for a few days and I don’t eat properly."

Safety risks

Tell the DWP if you have or might get into danger because you have trouble communicating.

For example, you should mention if you’ve ever had trouble:

  • telling someone that you need medical help

  • telling someone that you have an allergy to something

Make it clear:

  • why it can happen

  • how often it can happen

  • how badly it could affect you

  • how you try to prevent it - for example, you rely on someone to explain things for you

  • if it's because someone didn't help you

  • if it's because you get confused or have trouble remembering

Help with question 10: reading

Back to Help Filling in your PIP Claim Form

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