The staggering rise in PIP complaints shows there’s rot in the system

It’s not just the scale of the complaints, it’s the increasing evidence that disability benefits are being removed on fabricated grounds

What happens when the system designed to help you is actually hurting you? This is the question I keep coming back to as I look at the newly released evidence of widespread failings in the disability benefit system. Complaints about the personal independence payment (PIP) assessment process rose by nearly 880% last year, according to the Department for Work and Pensions.

That translates to almost 1,400 people, who might have Parkinson’s or severe depression, put through the government’s flagship disability benefit who – after months of gruelling paperwork, assessments, and perhaps even tribunals – are so desperate that they then find more energy to put in a formal complaint. These can’t be dismissed as being unjustified either: DWP statistics also show that the number of complaints that were upheld rose by 713% in the same year (from 67 in 2015-16 to 545 in 2016-17).

For the past four years, I’ve been reporting on the radical changes to disability benefits orchestrated by Conservative governments. The lack of humanity is glaring: there’s the Open University student with agoraphobia, Asperger’s and complex mental health problems living without a washing machine, oven or television after benefit cuts left her destitute; the 14-year-old child carer listening to her disabled dad crying because he doesn’t know how he’s going to pay the bills after having his disability benefits taken. But as the DWP’s complaints show, the scandal of this goes even further: there’s increasing evidence that benefits have been removed from disabled people based on entirely fabricated grounds.

The picture that’s emerging should disturb anyone who cares about the welfare state, poverty, or basic government transparency.

The specialist disabled news site Disability News Service (DNS) has been carrying out an investigation into claims of widespread dishonesty in the disability benefit system, with more than 250 PIP claimants alleging assessors repeatedly lied, ignored written evidence and dishonestly reported the results of physical examinations. It’s a regular occurrence for disabled readers to show me the reports of their benefit assessment, point to a statement, and tell me that it never in fact happened.

Even the latest official independent review of PIPs this March found there was “inherent distrust” of the system, due to the “lack of transparency in the assessment process” and the scale of faulty decisions (four out of five cases where a disabled person is denied disability benefits are now overturned on appeal).

Almost 80% of disabled people put through the PIP test have seen their health deteriorate due to stress or anxiety, a major survey found last month. More than a third of those who have had their benefit cut said they were struggling to pay for food, rent and bills. Forty per cent had become more isolated, and more than 50,000 disabled people have had their Motability cars removed after undergoing the PIP test.

read more here: http://www.computerweekly.com/news/4500248772/Universal-Credit-costs-leap-by-more-than-20-to-158bn

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Cruel Tory disability benefit changes strip £6million a year from people with multiple sclerosis

New figures lay bare the scale of cuts to people with the lifelong condition as claimants move from an old welfare system to a new one

Cruel Tory changes to disability benefit have stripped £6million a year from multiple sclerosis sufferers, shock research reveals today.

New figures lay bare the scale of cuts to people with the lifelong condition as claimants move from an old welfare system to a new one. Officials downgraded or denied help to nearly a third of 8,800 MS sufferers who were reassessed for PIP in the three years to October 2016.

The MS Society charity, which obtained the figures from the government, warned the cuts are having a “drastic impact” and need fixing “urgently”. The figures show MS suffers who moved from the old Disability Living Allowance onto a new system, Personal Independence Payments.

These sufferers were in the group receiving the highest payments to cope with reduced mobility. In a second group, known as ‘daily living’, 3,400 people receiving the most help were reassessed of which 800 had support downgraded or denied. The MS Society estimates this cut was worth £4.9million a year in lost benefits for the first group and £1.1million a year for the second.

Spokeswoman Genevieve Edwards said: “These staggering figures show how PIP is failing some of the most vulnerable people with MS who need the highest level of support. It doesn’t make sense that people are losing money they once qualified for, when they are living with a progressive condition that will never improve.

Read more here: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/cruel-tory-disability-benefit-changes-11082384

 

DWP spends £39m defending decisions to strip benefits from sick and disabled people

Government appeal process condemned as ‘traumatic’ and a ‘waste of time and money’

Ministers have spent almost £40m in an “appalling” attempt to stop sick and disabled people receiving the financial help they are entitled to, The Independent can reveal.

Freedom of Information requests have exposed how taxpayers’ money has been spent on futile legal battles to prevent vulnerable people receiving help. The hit to the public purse could also be far higher than the new data suggests because it is still unclear how much more the state spends running courts where sanctions are challenged.

The vast majority of appeals were lost by the Government last year, making the expense appear unnecessary. Early indications now show the problem is becoming even worse in 2017, with a 77 per cent rise in money spent trying to stop people from getting Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) payments.

Critics claim the situation has arisen because fitness to work assessments are deeply flawed, leading to incorrect decisions which need to be fought.

Senior Labour MP Frank Field, who worked as David Cameron’s poverty tsar, said: “What’s appalling is that the [Government] is prepared to spend £39m of taxpayers’ money against people who are desperately fighting off destitution.

New figures show that in 2016 the Government spent £22m processing claimants’ initial appeals against sanctions – a stage most people must pass through before they reach a tribunal.

It emerged earlier this year that government officials are given targets to reject four out of five initial appeals – known as mandatory reconsiderations – for some disability benefits.

Further data obtained by The Independentunder Freedom of Information law shows the Government then spent a further £17m fighting cases in the courts that were not settled at the initial appeal stage, bringing the total appeals process cost to £39m last year.

In the same period the Government lost 62 per cent of the tribunal cases in which it was attempting to sanction a claimant’s ESA – which supports people when impairments prevent them working.

They also lost 65 per cent of the cases in the latter half of 2016, the most recent period for which figures are available, relating to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), a longer-term benefit.

But the defeats suffered by government lawyers are not persuading ministers of the need to change tack, with the figures actually pointing to a more costly appeals process in 2017.

read more here:http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dwp-disabled-people-benefits-legal-action-lose-government-work-pensions-department-frank-field-mp-a7886166.html

Switch from DLA to PIP so disastrous that even PM’s own team is troubled

THERESA MAY was facing a back-bench rebellion over disability benefit cuts yesterday as charities warned that thousands of people are being wrongly assessed.

Tory MP Heidi Allen led the charge after Labour demanded an urgent review of the assessment process.

The MP for South Cambridgeshire, who famously used her maiden Commons speech to launch a searing attack on George Osborne’s benefits cuts, said: “People with disabilities and health conditions already face challenges in life, so we must not add to them.”

She called for a review of the way personal independence payments (PIP), which replace disability living allowances (DLA), are assessed.

Labour had warned that disabled people are being forced to use foodbanks as benefit payments are being stopped incorrectly. Work and pensions select committee chairman Frank Field has written to ministers demanding an overhaul of the current system, which he says fails to consider the impact of people’s disabilities and health conditions. And Labour MP Neil Coyle has demanded answers, saying the assessment process for PIP has “failed on every measure.”

The calls come as the government moves people over from DLA to PIP with thousands of people having their claims rejected only to have the decision reversed on appeal.

Disabled People Against Cuts’s Linda Burnip told the Morning Star that assessors working for private-sector firms Atos and Capita appeared to be “totally ignoring medical evidence.”

She accused the Department for Work and Pensions of simply rubber-stamping fl awed rulings which were then overturned on appeal. “It’s past time something was done about it,” she said, calling for the government to “get rid of the companies, hold them to account, fine them for their negligence.”

An Oxford University study earlier this year revealed that more than 50 per cent of households which use foodbanks include a disabled person.

In the letter to Pensions Secretary David Gauke, Mr Field said that the PIP process used a “rigid” set of questions which saw may people having benefits wrongly withdrawn or drastically reduced.

Mr Field said: “Might you therefore review as a matter of urgency please the quality, accuracy and reliability of the assessment process, and report back on the steps that are being taken to ensure it more accurately reflects applicants’ health conditions?”

The assessments are carried out by privateers Atos and Capita, which are being paid an astonishing £600 million for their PIP contracts — the original contract was for £512m.

Mr Coyle said: “Millions of pounds of public money was being poured down the drain” with DWP officials reviewing many of their decisions and backdating benefits to those who have their PIP reinstated.

To qualify for PIP, claimants must be awarded eight points for the standard rate, or at least 12 for the higher rate. But 13,130 people who were initially awarded no points at all after being assessed went on to receive PIP after an appeal.

The work and pensions select committee will decide whether to continue with its PIP inquiry when Parliament’s summer recess ends on September 5.

https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-55bb-Tory-MPs-Lash-out-at-Mays-Disability-Rights-Cuts-Crisis#.

Banbridge woman feels “totally demoralised” after having disability benefits slashed

Jane, 57, says her assessment for the new Personal Independence Payment was “wholly dishonest”

A Banbridge woman has said she feels “totally demoralised” after having her disability benefits slashed following changes to the welfare system.

The woman, who we will call Jane as she wishes to remain anonymous, was receiving mobility and home care payments for several years under the old Disability Living Allowance scheme.

Jane, 57, who has worked all her life in the care industry, began receiving disability benefits following her recovery from breast cancer in 2011. As part of her cancer treatment, Jane had several lymph nodes on her breast and underarm removed, as well as a large portion of her right breast. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped glands throughout the body which play an important part in our immune system, trapping bacteria and viruses.

Unable to work and living with constant pain and mobility issues, Jane previously applied for disability benefits and was successful.

Speaking to Belfast Live, Jane said that she was originally reluctant to apply for benefits. She said: “I have never claimed disability benefits before, but eventually things got so tough I had to accept that I was not the same woman I was before – and I knew I would never be the same woman again. The affect the treatment has on your body is horrible, the tremendous joint pain and pain deep in my bones – I have extreme difficulty walking and getting around.”

Jane now suffers from Lymphedema, a condition which causes painful swelling in the arms and legs. She now wears compression garments on her right arm and upper body to prevent swelling, which severely restricts her movement.

As a result of her cancer treatment, the mother-of-three’s immune system has been left severely compromised, resulting in frequent, debilitating infections. She also has to drain fluid from affected areas of her body every day and requires constant support from her husband, who is now retired.

Last year, an overhaul of the welfare system resulted in the old DLA system in Northern Ireland being phased out in favour of the new Personal Independence Payment. The changes required all those receiving DLA payments to be re-assessed by a healthcare professional to determine the level of assistance they require.

Assessment’s in Northern Ireland have been outsourced to the private firm Capita, which in turn employs nurses and other professionals to carry out the assessments.

Jane said that when she was visited by a nurse in April for her assessment, initially she thought the process would be seamless. “The assessment seemed to be going well, the nurse put me at ease and said i have nothing to worry about. I thought she understood my difficulties and would put that in her report.”

Several weeks later, however, Jane received a letter stating she scored zero in her assessment – meaning she does not require any daily assistance – and, as a result, her benefits would be completely withdrawn.

After obtaining a copy of her assessment forms, Jane was shocked to discover that much of what was in her file was “complete fantasy”.

She said: “Some things were unbelievable, like she just made them up out of nowhere.  “The assessor said that my daughter drives me to the local Tesco in Banbridge every week so I can do my shopping. Now that’s all very well and good – except I have one daughter and she lives in England. She has lived there for the last 16 years and visits me once a year. So I don’t know where the assessor got that one from.”

read more here: http://www.belfastlive.co.uk/news/banbridge-woman-feels-totally-demoralised-13532488

DWP rejects PIP claimant’s appeal… before she receives decision notice

Fresh concerns have been raised about the integrity of the disability benefits system, after a disabled woman’s appeal against having her benefits removed was rejected before she was even told her claim had been turned down.

read more here: https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/dwp-rejects-pip-claimants-appeal-before-she-receives-decision-notice/

DWP Is Using Lost Letters To Cut Spending

“The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is using lost appointment letters for face-to-face assessments as an excuse for turning down disabled people’s benefit claims, to help it cut spending on social security, it has been claimed.

Concerns have been raised about both the government’s new personal independence payment (PIP) – which helps meet a person’s disability-related costs – and employment and support allowance (ESA), the out-of-work sickness and disability benefit.”

read more here: https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/dwp-is-using-lost-benefit-assessment-letters-to-cut-spending/