Complaints about disability benefit assessments up 6,000% in three years, figures show

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The variety of complaints to the federal government about its disability profit evaluation course of has surged by greater than 6,000 per cent in three years, prompting contemporary issues that the system is “flawed” and harming disabled individuals.

Authorities figures present 9,320 complaints have been acquired about medical assessments for Private Unbiased Cost (PIP) within the yr to February 2019 – in contrast with 1,391 in 2016-17 and simply 142 in 2015-16.

This marks a surge of 570 per cent in two years and 6,463 per cent in three years – which campaigners mentioned exhibits that the method is “utterly insufficient” for disabled individuals. The general variety of PIP claims has risen by 67 per cent since 2016.

The medical evaluation course of for PIP – a disability benefit that changed Incapacity Dwelling Allowance (DLA) in 2013 – has come underneath mounting criticism from politicians and charities who say it’s riddled with inaccuracies and forces disabled claimants to “battle” for the assist they’re entitled to.

Hundreds of refused claimants take their instances to courtroom annually to attraction the selections. Of these, 73 per cent go on to win their appeals at tribunal – casting doubt over the accuracy of decision-making.

Jennifer Jones, 38, who suffers from myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and bipolar dysfunction, had been receiving DLA for round seven years when she was reassessed for PIP, at which level her excessive fee of every day dwelling allowance was modified to the bottom fee, which she mentioned led to a “enormous discount in assist”.

The only mother-of-two, who additionally suffers from fibromyalgia, which causes ache everywhere in the physique, mentioned it meant she couldn’t make easy journeys as a result of she may now not afford taxi charges.

“Once I was advised I needed to transition I assumed, like lots of people did, that I’d be supported the identical as earlier than,” she mentioned.

Ms Jones misplaced independence when her incapacity funds have been reduce (Jennifer Jones)

“The reduce meant I wasn’t in a position to get out of the home very a lot for about six months. I misplaced any sense of independence. It was simply issues like attending to the grocery store – simply abnormal, mundane issues that lots of people who don’t have mobility wants wouldn’t suppose twice about. It’s so limiting.”

Ms Jones took her case to tribunal, and only a week earlier than the listening to, a Division for Work and Pensions (DWP) caseworker phoned her and mentioned her authentic assist can be reinstated.

She mentioned that whereas she was happy to now be in receipt of her entitled advantages, many different disabled individuals didn’t have the resilience to battle adverse choices. She cited the case of 1 pal who killed himself after being refused PIP and then sanctioned for failing to attend the job centre.

She added: “I’m satisfied that this tactic of refusing obligatory reconsiderations is as a result of they know that quite a lot of us can’t address the stress of going to a courtroom and that lots of people will simply say I can’t do it. So individuals are then happening to unemployment profit and they don’t seem to be coping.

“It took over half a yr to get mine sorted out and now, in just some months’ time, I do know these kinds are going to return by means of my door but once more. It’s a dread each time the letter field goes.

“The assist moving into work is nice for some individuals, however there are a lot of of us who’ve tried and tried to work and may’t, and now it seems like we’re being whitewashed out of existence.”

In one other case, the husband of a PIP claimant, who didn’t need to be named, mentioned his spouse misplaced £123.45 per week when she was reassessed in December 2018. That included £64 within the carer assist component of her award, which means her 30-year-old daughter now cares for her full-time with no monetary assist.

The 68-year-old man, whose spouse suffers from epilepsy and subsequent reminiscence points, mentioned: “She had been getting that fairly fortunately for 20 odd years, and all of the sudden somebody turns round and says you’re not getting it in any respect.

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“They’re making an attempt to chop cash with out trying on the circumstances. Sure, there are fraudulent individuals on the market, however these individuals know how one can play the system and it’s the sincere individuals who appear to be getting hammered by this. 

“It’s affecting individuals like my spouse who on account of epilepsy has acquired reminiscence issues, however they don’t seem to care.”

Ian Lavery, the Labour MP who obtained the figures by means of a parliamentary query, mentioned the present advantages system was “driving individuals into destitution”.

He mentioned that within the yr to March 2019, his workplace helped constituents win again a complete of £275,011 in PIP claims and appeals, and that even the native authorities welfare assist crew have been passing instances to his caseworkers.

Anna Hen, govt director of coverage and analysis at incapacity equality charity Scope, mentioned: “PIP is a lifeline that exists as a result of life prices extra in case you are disabled. It’s important that disabled individuals get the monetary assist they want.

“The federal government must hear to those frustrations and act shortly to overtake PIP assessments and familiarize yourself with the routine inaccuracies disabled individuals expertise.”

Genevieve Edwards, of the MS Society, mentioned: “This surge in complaints is in no way stunning, given the evaluation course of is so utterly insufficient for disabled individuals. 

“We incessantly hear about how the method causes nice anxiousness, stress and hurt to individuals’s well being. Even those that’ve had elevated assist say the method takes a toll on their emotional and bodily wellbeing.”

A DWP spokesperson mentioned: “We would like the PIP evaluation course of to work nicely for everybody and have made vital enhancements, together with testing the video recording of assessments. This yr complaints represented lower than 1 per cent of all PIP assessments.”

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