Mobility - Activity 1: Planning and following journeys

Activity 1 considers a claimant's ability to follow the route of a familiar or unfamiliar journey as well as to plan and undertake a journey. As with all the other activities, a claimant is to be assessed as satisfying a descriptor only if they can do so reliably.


The descriptors for Activity 1 are -

  1. Can plan and follow the route of a journey unaided. 0 points
  2. Needs prompting to be able to undertake any journey to avoid overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant. 4 points
  3. Cannot plan the route of a journey. 8 points
  4. Cannot follow the route of an unfamiliar journey without another person, assistance dog or orientation aid. 10 points
  5. Cannot undertake any journey because it would cause overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant. 10 points
  6. Cannot follow the route of a familiar journey without another person, an assistance dog or an orientation aid. 12 points

Source: Part 3 of Schedule 1 to the Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) Regulations 2013 (SI.No.377/2013).

NB - amendments made by the Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (SI.No.194/2017) to descriptors c, d and f from 16 March 2017 - that added the words 'For reasons other than psychological distress' - have been held to be unlawful by the High Court in [2017] EWHC 3375 (Admin), resulting in the descriptors reverting to their previous form. For further details, see our case law commentary below.

The equivalent main PIP Regulations in Northern Ireland have been amended from 15 June 2018 (SR.No.121/2018), to remove the words 'For reasons other than psychological distress' from descriptors c, d and f.


Terms used in the PIP descriptors are defined in regulations and, in relation to Activity 2, are -

  • “aid or appliance” - (a) means any device which improves, provides or replaces [the claimant's] impaired physical or mental function; and (b) includes a prosthesis;
  • “assistance dog” means a dog trained to guide or assist a person with a sensory impairment;
  • “orientation aid” means a specialist aid designed to assist disabled people to follow a route safely;
  • “prompting” means reminding, encouraging or explaining by another person;
  • “psychological distress” means distress related to an enduring mental health condition or an intellectual or cognitive impairment;
  • “unaided” means without - (a) the use of an aid or appliance; or (b) supervision, prompting or assistance.

Source: Regulation 2 and Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) Regulations 2013 (SI.No.377/2013)

See also DWP guidance on the 'planning and following journeys' activity in section 2.4 of the  Personal Independence Payment assessment guide for assessment providers.

Case law

Commentary: A three-judge panel in [2016] UKUT 531 (AAC) (the MH case) considered the meaning of 'to plan and follow a journey' (descriptors c, d, and f) which had been subject to conflicting interpretations in earlier cases - [2015] UKUT 344 (AAC), [2015] UKUT 386 (AAC), and [2015] UKUT 694 (AAC). The panel held, in a decision dated 28 November 2016, that the descriptors could be met by a person experiencing overwhelming psychological distress. To reverse the effect of this ruling, the government amended the PIP Regulations from 16 March 2017 to explicitly exclude psychological distress as a means of meeting descriptors c, d and f. However, in December 2017, the High Court ruled in [2017] EWHC 3375 (Admin) that the March 2017 amendments were unlawful and should be quashed and, in a written statement in the House of Commons on 19 January 2018, the Work and Pensions Secretary announced that 'after careful consideration' she had decided not to appeal the High Court's judgment and would implement the three-judge panel decision in MH. The Minister for Disabled People has stated in written answers on 30 January 2018 that anyone owed arrears as a result of the MH case would be paid either from the date of their claim or the date of the judgment, whichever is later.

In [2016] UKUT 420 (AAC) Judge Jacobs confirms that, although DWP guidance on Activity 1 published at the time of the decision had defined a journey as being a 'local' journey, the legislation does not state this and the test is general in nature, without reference to the individual characteristics of the route; the DWP guidance on Activity 1 has since been updated to remove the definition of journey as being a local journey (see section 2.4 of the  PIP assessment guide for assessment providers (part 2)).

[2017] UKUT 480 (AAC) confirms that a 'SatNav' is not an orientation aid unless it has been specially designed or modified to assist the disabled. | Add commentary or suggest an edit.