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Last updated:
16/08/2019

What are the PIP descriptors?

Personal Independent Payment (PIP) descriptors are a way for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to assess your ability to carry out specific daily living and mobility activities when applying for PIP. We explain what the daily living descriptors and the mobility PIP descriptors are.

Each of the daily living and mobility activities has several PIP descriptors. Each descriptor has a points score assigned to them ranging from 0 to 12.

The activities and the descriptors make up the assessment criteria for PIP – therefore, you should understand how each PIP descriptor applies to your current situation.

PIP descriptor definitions used in the assessment criteria

When filling in the PIP form or being assessed face-to-face, you should understand several definitions used throughout the assessment criteria.

When you're assessed face-to-face, the assessor must use the meaning of words as defined in the assessment criteria. We have selected a few phrases we believe you may need to understand when applying for PIP with a mental health condition:

Words used in the PIP activities and descriptors Definition
aided with: (a) the use of an aid or appliance, or (b) supervision, prompting or assistance.
aid or appliance any device which improves, provides or replaces your impaired physical or mental function.
assistance another person is there to physically help you to do something. This does not include someone else speaking for you.
basic verbal information information communicated verbally in a simple sentence.
basic written information signs, symbols and dates written or printed standard size text in your native language.
communication support support from a person trained or experienced in communicating with people with specific communication needs.
complex budgeting decisions decisions involving: (a) calculating household and personal budgets, (b) managing and paying bills, and (c) planning future purchases.
complex verbal information information communicated verbally in either more than one sentence or one complicated sentence.
complex written information more than one sentence of written or printed standard size text in your native language.
engage socially (a) interact with others in a clear and socially appropriate manner, and (b) understand body language, and (c) establish relationships.
manage medication means take medication, where a failure to do so is likely to result in a deterioration in your health.
manage therapy means undertake therapy, where a failure to do so is likely to result in a deterioration in your health.
monitor a health condition (a) detect significant changes in your health condition which are likely to lead to a deterioration in your health, and (b) take action advised by a: (i) registered doctor, or (ii) registered nurse, or (iii) health professional who is regulated by the Health Professions Council without which your health is likely to deteriorate.
prompting another person must remind or encourage you to do something or explain something to you.
psychological distress distress related to an enduring mental health condition such as, anxiety, confused emotions, hallucination, rage or depression.
simple budgeting decisions decisions involving: (a) calculating the cost of goods, and (b) calculating change required after a purchase.
simple meal a cooked one course meal for one using fresh ingredients.
social support support from a person trained or experienced in assisting people to engage in social situations.
supervision you need another person watching over you all the time to make sure you are safe.
therapy therapy to be undertaken at home which is prescribed or recommended by a: (a) registered (i) doctor, or (ii) nurse, or (iii) pharmacist, or (b) health professional regulated by the Health Professions Council but does not include taking or applying, or otherwise receiving or administering medication (whether orally, topically, or by any other means), or any action which, in your case, falls within the definition of ‘monitor a health condition’.
unaided without: (a) the use of an aid or appliance, or (b) supervision, prompting or assistance.

Daily living PIP descriptors and points

There are ten PIP daily living activities. We have listed the related descriptors used in the assessment criteria.

When filling in the PIP form or answering questions at an assessment, think about how you can do each activity:

  • Safely: Can you do the activity without causing danger to yourself or someone else?
  • Well enough: For example, you may be able to make a meal, but you will not be able to eat it if it is undercooked.
  • More than once: Can you repeat the activity as many times as you need to?
  • In a reasonable time: Does it take you a lot longer to do the activity than it would take most people?

For each activity, you need to explain which descriptor is the most relevant for more than half of the days in a year. You can only score points for one descriptor per activity.

If your health changes regularly, different descriptors could apply to you at different times.

In this case, the following rules apply:

  • If more than one descriptor applies to you more than half the time, the activity with the highest points will count.
  • You may find that more than one descriptor applies to you, but none applies more than half of the time. But if together they affect you half the time, the one that applies most of the time will count.

Preparing food PIP descriptors

The ‘preparing food’ PIP activity is about your ability to make a simple meal. It looks at whether you need any help to make yourself regular cooked food daily.

Activity Descriptors Points
1. Preparing food a. Can prepare and cook a simple meal unaided. 0
  b. Needs to use an aid or appliance to be able to either prepare or cook a simple meal. 2
  c. Cannot cook a simple meal using a conventional cooker but is able to do so using a microwave. 2
  d. Needs prompting to be able to either prepare or cook a simple meal. 2
  e. Needs supervision or assistance to either prepare or cook a simple meal. 4
  f. Cannot prepare and cook food. 8

Taking nutrition PIP descriptors

The ‘taking nutrition’ PIP activity assesses your ability to eat and drink.

Activity Descriptors Points
2. Taking nutrition a. Can take nutrition unaided. 0
  b. Needs – (i) to use an aid or appliance to be able to take nutrition; or (ii) supervision to be able to take nutrition; or (iii) assistance to be able to cut up food. 2
  c. Needs a therapeutic source to be able to take nutrition. 2
  d. Needs prompting to be able to take nutrition. 4
  e. Needs assistance to be able to manage a therapeutic source to take nutrition. 6
  f. Cannot convey food and drink to their mouth and needs another person to do so. 10

Managing therapy or monitoring a health condition PIP descriptors

This 'managing therapy or monitoring a health condition' activity is about being able to take medications, notice changes in your health condition and manage treatments or therapy that you have at home.

Activity Descriptors Points
3. Managing therapy or monitoring a health condition a. Either – (i) does not receive medication or therapy or need to monitor a health condition; or (ii) can manage medication or therapy or monitor a health condition unaided. 0
  b. Needs either – (i) to use an aid or appliance to be able to manage medication; or (ii) supervision, prompting or assistance to be able to manage medication or monitor a health condition. 1
  c. Needs supervision, prompting or assistance to be able to manage therapy that takes no more than 3.5 hours a week. 2
  d. Needs supervision, prompting or assistance to be able to manage therapy that takes more than 3.5 but no more than 7 hours a week. 4
  e. Needs supervision, prompting or assistance to be able to manage therapy that takes more than 7 but no more than 14 hours a week. 6
  f. Needs supervision, prompting or assistance to be able to manage therapy that takes more than 14 hours a week. 8

Washing and bathing PIP descriptors

The ‘washing and bathing’ activity includes getting in and out of an un-adapted bath or shower and washing your whole body. It also covers when some of the symptoms of your mental health conditions mean you don't wash and bathe every day.

Activity Descriptors Points
4. Washing and bathing a. Can wash and bathe unaided. 0
  b. Needs to use an aid or appliance to be able to wash or bathe. 2
  c. Needs supervision or prompting to be able to wash or bathe. 2
  d. Needs assistance to be able to wash either their hair or body below the waist. 2
  e. Needs assistance to be able to get in or out of a bath or shower. 3
  f. Needs assistance to be able to wash their body between the shoulders and waist. 4
  g. Cannot wash and bathe at all and needs another person to wash their entire body. 8

Managing toilet needs or incontinence PIP descriptors

The ‘managing toilet needs or incontinence’ activity assesses your ability to get on and off and use the toilet and to clean yourself afterwards.

Activity Descriptors Points
5. Managing toilet needs or incontinence a. Can manage toilet needs or incontinence unaided. 0
  b. Needs to use an aid or appliance to be able to manage toilet needs or incontinence. 2
  c. Needs supervision or prompting to be able to manage toilet needs. 2
  d. Needs assistance to be able to manage toilet needs. 4
  e. Needs assistance to be able to manage incontinence of either bladder or bowel. 6
  f. Needs assistance to be able to manage incontinence of both bladder and bowel. 8

Dressing and undressing PIP descriptors

The 'dressing and undressing' activity looks at your ability to choose, put on and take off suitable, un-adapted clothing.

Activity Descriptors Points
6. Dressing and undressing a. Can dress and undress unaided. 0
  b. Needs to use an aid or appliance to be able to dress or undress. 2
  c. Needs either - (i) prompting to be able to dress, undress or determine appropriate circumstances for remaining clothed; or (ii) prompting or assistance to be able to select appropriate clothing. 2
  d. Needs assistance to be able to dress or undress their lower body. 2
  e. Needs assistance to be able to dress or undress their upper body. 4
  f. Cannot dress or undress at all. 8

Communicating verbally PIP descriptors

The 'communicating verbally' activity includes understanding what someone says and understanding others.

Activity Descriptors Points
7. Communicating verbally a. Can express and understand verbal information unaided. 0
  b. Needs to use an aid or appliance to be able to speak or hear. 2
  c. Needs communication support to be able to express or understand complex verbal information. 4
  d. Needs communication support to be able to express or understand basic verbal information. 8
  e. Cannot express or understand verbal information at all even with communication support. 12

Reading and understanding signs, symbols and words PIP descriptors

The 'reading and understanding signs, symbols and words' activity judge your ability to read and understand written or printed information.

Activity Descriptors Points
8. Reading and understanding signs, symbols and words a. Can read and understand basic and complex written information either unaided or using spectacles or contact lenses. 0
  b. Needs to use an aid or appliance, other than spectacles or contact lenses, to be able to read or understand either basic or complex written information. 2
  c. Needs prompting to be able to read or understand complex written information. 2
  d. Needs prompting to be able to read or understand basic written information. 4
  e. Cannot read or understand signs, symbols or words at all. 8

Engaging with other people face to face PIP descriptors

The 'engaging with other people face to face' activity includes understanding body language and building relationships with other people.

Activity Descriptors Points
9. Engaging with other people face to face a. Can engage with other people unaided. 0
  b. Needs prompting to be able to engage with other people. 2
  c. Needs social support to be able to engage with other people. 4
  d. Cannot engage with other people due to such engagement causing either – (i) overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant; or (ii) the claimant to exhibit behaviour which would result in a substantial risk of harm to the claimant or another person. 8

Making budgeting decisions PIP descriptors

The 'making budgeting decisions' activity looks at how capable you are at buying items from a shop, paying bills or planning financially for the future.

Activity Descriptors Points
10. Making budgeting decisions a. Can manage complex budgeting decisions unaided. 0
  b. Needs prompting or assistance to be able to make complex budgeting decisions. 2
  c. Needs prompting or assistance to be able to make simple budgeting decisions. 4
  d. Cannot make any budgeting decisions at all. 6

Mobility PIP descriptors and points

There are two PIP mobility activities. We have listed the related descriptors which the assessment criteria use.

For each activity, you need to explain which descriptor is the most relevant for more than half of the days in a year. You can only score points for one descriptor per activity.

Planning and following journeys PIP descriptor

The ‘planning and following journeys’ activity covers your ability to make and plan a journey.

If you cannot use public transport, the DWP should not count you as able to plan and follow an unfamiliar journey alone.

Activity Descriptors Points
1. Planning and following journeys a. Can plan and follow the route of a journey unaided. 0
  b. Needs prompting to be able to undertake any journey to avoid overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant. 4
  c. Cannot plan the route of a journey. 8
  d. Cannot follow the route of an unfamiliar journey without another person, assistance dog or orientation aid. 10
  e. Cannot undertake any journey because it would cause overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant. 10
  f. Cannot follow the route of a familiar journey without another person, an assistance dog or an orientation aid. 12

Moving around PIP descriptor

The ‘moving around’ activity looks at your ability to move around physically.

Activity Descriptors Points
2. Moving around a. Can stand and then move more than 200 metres, either aided or unaided. 0
  b. Can stand and then move more than 50 metres but no more than 200 metres, either aided or unaided. 4
  c. Can stand and then move unaided more than 20 metres but no more than 50 metres. 8
  d. Can stand and then move using an aid or appliance more than 20 metres but no more than 50 metres. 10
  e. Can stand and then move more than 1 metre but no more than 20 metres, either aided or unaided. 12
  f. Cannot, either aided or unaided, – (i) stand; or (ii) move more than 1 metre. 12

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