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Social Security Case Law

Summaries of recent cases on social security law and practice.

This case looks at the focus of the Tribunal in relation to the claimant’s evidence and its credibility.

PT v Department for Communities (PIP) (2022) NI Com 28


The applicant was refused entitlement to the daily living component of PIP. She appealed the decision. The applicant had mental health issues and outlined she has set her house on fire three times. The Tribunal doubted her evidence, it also found that her daughter cooks and freezes meals allowing the claimant to then use a microwave with a bit of prompting. Two points were awarded under activity 1: Preparing food. In addition, the Tribunal found that the claimant stayed in her pyjamas all day as a lifestyle choice and prompting to dress would make no difference. As a result, no points were awarded under Activity 6: dressing and undressing. The points awarded were insufficient to qualify the applicant for PIP at the standard rate for the daily living component.

Legal Issue

The applicant was represented by the Law Centre. The first issue was that the approach of the Tribunal to the claimant’s evidence and her credibility. The second issue was how the Tribunal had applied the descriptors within Activity 1: Preparing Food and Activity 6: Dressing and Undressing.

Decision / Credibility

The Chief Commissioner found no reason to criticise the Tribunal’s conclusion that it did not accept the claimant’s evidence about setting the house on fire. The Chief Commissioner set out the long standing and accepted test on credibility from earlier decisions in CH/ 02-03 (DLA) at para 11, R3-01 (IB) (T) at para 22 and CIS/4022/2007 at para 52. In particular, these decisions establish a number of fundamental principles, namely:

  1. There is no formal requirement that a claimant’s evidence be corroborated, though corroborative evidence may well reinforce a claimant’s evidence.
  2. There is no obligation on a Tribunal to simply accept a claimant’s evidence as credible.
  3. The decision on credibility is a matter for the Tribunal’s judgement taking into account all the relevant considerations, for example, the person’s reliability, the internal consistency of their account, the consistency with other evidence and its inherent plausibility, bearing in mind a bare-faced liar might appear wholly consistent while a truthful witness’ account may have gaps and discrepancies due to forgetfulness or mental health problems.
  4. Subject to the requirement of natural justice, there is no obligation on a Tribunal to put a finding about credibility to a party before reaching a decision.
  5. There is no universal obligation on Tribunals to explain assessments of credibility on every occasion. However, there is an obligation  on a Tribunal to give adequate reason of its decision, which may, depending on the circumstances, include a brief explanation as to why a particular piece of evidence has not been accepted.

Ultimately, the reasons for the decision must make the decision comprehensible to a reasonable person reading it.

Activity 1: Preparing Food

The Chief commissioner accepted the reasoning and analysis of Upper Tribunal decision AI v SSWP (PIP) 2016 UKUT 0322 (AAC) and LC v SSWP (PIP) 2016 UKUT 0150 (AAC) as reflecting the legal position in Northern Ireland.In particular, in LC v SSWP the decision held test the ability to use a microwave in descriptor 1(c) does not mean the heating of ready made microwave meals. Instead, a claimant must still be able to prepare and cook food from fresh ingredients. In AI, the decision noted that the descriptor ‘needs to use an aid or appliance to be able to either prepare or cook a simple meal’ does not refer to a microwave as it is neither an aid nor an appliance.Given the Tribunal’s findings, they had misunderstood the rise of the microwave in preparing food within descriptor 1.

Activity 6: Dressing and Undressing

The Tribunal had accepted the claimant needed prompting to undertake other activities for example washing due to low mood and the Disability Assessor report recorded the need for prompting to dress and undress. In light of this and other evidence, the Tribunal did not adequately explain its findings that no prompting was required to dress and undress.The Chief commissioner accepted that descriptor (c) (i) ‘needs prompting to be able to dress and undress or determine appropriate circumstances to remain clothed’ was satisfied and awarded 2 points. This meant the claimant had sufficient points to be entitled to the standard rate of the daily living component of PIP.

For a full copy of the judgement, click here.