13 Days Remaining

Friday 25th
posted by Steve Sweeney in Britain

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Gauke, Mr Field said that the PIP process used a “rigid” set of questions which saw may people having benefi ts wrongly withdrawn or drastically reduced.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.