Gill Willis’s experience is commonplace among those who undergo the assessment procedure for Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
Assessors from private companies Atos and Capita – who are expected to reach targets for pushing people off-benefit, if I recall correctly – have been bitterly criticised for their failure to carry out assessments properly.
In Mrs Willis’s case, the assessor was said to have decided that she could prepare and cook food, simply because she picked up her handbag to get out a list of prescription medicines she must take.
The false assessment was overturned after a nine-month wait for a tribunal hearing, at which only one question was asked – how did Mrs Willis cope with taking her medication?
She said she needed her husband’s help and was put on the full rate of PIP.
Travesties of this sort are now happening all the time.
The MS Society released research last week, showing that people with the incurable condition have lost £6 million a year in benefits after being transferred from DLA to PIP.
The benefit is supposed to help people cope with everyday life if they have an illness, disability or mental health condition – but, according to advice site Benefits and Work, just 45 per cent of new claims for personal independence payment have been successful where the claimant is not terminally ill. The success rate for DLA to PIP transfers is currently 69 per cent.
The site also states that most health professionals carrying out PIP medicals are physiotherapists with very little knowledge of mental health issues, learning difficulties or more complex physical conditions. They all receive around a week’s training – mostly about how to use the computer software and how the points system for PIP works.
So Mrs Willis is right to say the assessment procedure should be changed – but as a single voice, she won’t get far.
It occurs to This Writer that organisations like the MS Society need to work together to fight the minority Conservative government’s programme of benefit deprivation.
Petitions calling for changes to PIP – or its abandonment – exist online but have not attracted many signatures.
If these organisations launched campaigns for change, and sought the support of their members, then made a joint submission to Parliament, perhaps that would achieve a better result.
Or is that just wishful thinking?
A … woman left feeling ‘let down’ and ‘depressed’ after being forced to fight to keep her disability benefits has called for changes to the Government’s assessment process.
Gill Willis was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1990.
The 61-year-old had been receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) but last year faced a reassessment to move onto PIP – the benefit replacing DLA.
Following the assessment, the retired British Airways employee learnt her payment was being downgraded and she would receive hundreds of pounds less each month.
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