Zero Points for PIP and same again after mandatory reconsideration worth going to tribunal?

Hi All

I have always known there was something different/not normal about me, when I was a child I thought I was just naughty but as I grew older I tried looking for answers.  Doctors took me at face value and dismissed my problems.

Finally at 33 I decided to have a private assessment and was diagnosed in April with High Functioning Autism aka Aspergers.

I started the PIP process in Jan this year citing reasons of depression, anxiety and autism, going into detail for each category I experienced issues.

At the atos assessment it appears I came across too "normal" and was scored zero points in all areas and they criticised my lack of diagnosis.  This was especially frustrating when I told them at the assessment my diagnosis was scheduled within the week and once I had the diagnosis I called them to wait until I had the report to make their decision.  They ignored this request and sent out their decision before I got the report.

I then went through the mandatory reconsideration outlining why I thought they had misunderstood me and the very unsuited physiotherapist (I don't claim to have any physical difficulties) judged me just like a book by the cover.  This included my full diagnostic report, notes from my councillor that saw me within 4 days of the atos assessment along with medical records and further explanation from me.

So I was shocked when the reconsideration came back with zero points again saying how the report doesn't matter as it was after my atos assessment and during that time I came across with no issues along with saying I can drive a manual car which means doing multiple things at once and so I should have no issues.  This has left me feeling really low and made me question the fairness and honesty of this system and I don't know if I have the energy to take this to tribunal even though I have nothing to lose.

Any help or advice would be very much appreciated.

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  • Hi there,

    It's been a while since I posted here, but as I have been in exactly the same situation as you, I thought I'd respond to give you a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel (though, be warned, it is a very long and dark tunnel!)

    I applied for PIP well over 18 months ago now. Like you, my reasons are late-diagnosed autism and the consequent anxiety and depression, and no other disabilities. I scored zero points at my ATOS assessment (done by an ex-paramedic!), and zero points following mandatory reconsideration. DWP had messed my claim up so badly that my first tribunal hearing had to be adjourned, followed by a 6 month wait for a second one. But at the second hearing a couple of weeks ago, I was finally awarded the enhanced rate of PIP plus the standard rate for the mobility component, albeit only for the next two and half years (I'm so looking forward to having to go through this all over again - aaargh!)

    In addition, a friend of mine who, like me, was also diagnosed in his forties and initially scored zero points, was awarded pretty much the same at his tribunal hearing  recently.

    So, yes, I think that it is worth fighting - zero points is not such a lost cause as it might first appear.

    There's no doubt in my mind at all that the assessment process is deliberately designed to deflect as many people as possible, regardless of how unjust this might be. Independent researchers and journalists (Private Eye has followed this well) have shown repeatedly that assessors are not sufficiently trained to make a fair judgement, have been caught deliberately disregarding and even outright lying about the evidence presented to them, and are sometimes working to meet undeclared targets for the number of people that they reject.  I have yet to hear of anybody, with any disability, who received a significantly different decision at the mandatory referral stage - I can only conclude that it is just a stalling tactic, and yet another attempt to make people give up on their claim.

    I won't lie to you, the tribunal process is lengthy and very nerve-wracking, but in the mean-time, you are no worse off than before your application, and should you win, the award will be back-dated to your application date, regardless of how long a period this is.  My impression of the tribunal court staff was generally good, despite the process itself being so tough. The judges were assisted by doctors and psychologists with far better training than the ATOS assessor.  Their questions were difficult to answer sometimes, but I could tell from the start that they were asking the right kind of questions to be able to understand my condition properly. I was also allowed to take a break whenever I felt I needed one, and the court clerk even had an unlimited supply of hankies to hand for the inevitable emotional moments (I hope the other people in the waiting room didn't get the wrong idea when I walked through in floods of tears after I was told I had won!)

    In the meantime, if you decide to go ahead, I advise you to seek out someone from a disability advocacy service to help you out with the appeal process (but don't miss the deadline for appealing!)  There are a lot of documents to deal with, and some of the courtroom talk about points of law would have been way over my head if I hadn't had an advocate with me at the tribunals. There may or may not be a representative from DWP at a hearing who might bring up those kind of things.  There was one present at my first hearing but not the second - I think he might have been embarrassed to come back after the roasting the judge gave him at the first one! (sweet shadenfreud after the hell they've put me through!)

    The only major difference for you that I can see is that your formal diagnosis came after your application for PIP.  Common sense say that your diagnosis does back up your original case; autism is a life-long condition, therefore it confirms that you were autistic at the time of your application. However, that is common sense, not benefits law, so I would make a particular point of raising that if you're seeking advice from anywhere; as Misfit says, it might make more sense to claim from scratch if that evidence is inadmissable at appeal.

    A search of the web should be able to turn up a suitable advocacy service near to you, but failing that, your local Citizen's Advice, NAS, or a branch of one of the mental health charities should be able to point you in the right direction. Do that ASAP, as any advocacy service is likely to have a busy waiting list of other PIP claimants!

    Best wishes!

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