PERSONAL independence payments (PIP) replaced the disability living allowance (DLA) in 2013 as a clear cost-cutting exercise under Iain Duncan Smith’s vicious 2012 welfare reforms. PIP is payable to people both in and out of work.
The PIP assessments are contracted to Atos and Capita, each company with massive backlogs. People are rarely told that they can have assessments recorded and often find that the report bears little or no reality to the assessment they were part of.
Many who were on DLA for life due to progressive conditions have since been refused PIP. Like DLA, PIP is supposed to support disabled people with the extra costs of being disabled. However, PIP has reduced the distance individuals are able to walk from 50m to 20m.
John Pring of Disability News Service notes: “Government figures predict that, with the mobility criteria set at 20m, 548,000 of the 892,000 working-age people who were receiving the higher rate of the DLA mobility component in February 2013 will not receive the enhanced mobility rate of PIP once they are transferred to the new benefit.”
Channel 4 Dispatches uncovered the mess of assessments earlier this year. So-called assessors were seen completing reports before they had seen an individual, removing notices informing people of their right to a recorded assessment and insulting people based on their application for PIP at Capita.
DPAC receives a large number of emails about PIP assessments. They show how difficult it is to get a home assessment, to get a recorded assessment or to just get a response on the phone from either of the two companies. The system is as bad as, if not worse than, Atos’s work capability assessments — now taken over, although not improved, by Maximus.
We see endless cases in the newspapers where people have lost motability cars, often their only means of leaving their homes. For example, Tom Carter had bone cancer and consequently had his leg amputated in 2014. He was awarded the enhanced mobility component of PIP, which meant he could have use of a car. In 2015 he was reassessed and the car was removed. Tom is now confined to his home, unable to attend medical appointments to check the cancer has not returned.
Denise Haddon is 3'8" — she does not have thigh bones and she cannot walk to work, even though her job is 800m away.
In 2015, she lost DLA and was found ineligible for PIP. She faced the prospect of losing her car and her job — she had worked since she was 16. It took six months to overturn the decision.
“We’ve had a horrendous six months,” she said. “It spoiled our Christmas. Luckily I’ve got a good family behind me, but not everybody has that support. Personally I just think they want people to give up.”
Kate Walsh has had six joint replacements, her foot amputated, part of her leg replaced and has osteoarthritis throughout and, despite this, she was refused the enhanced mobility rate of PIP — she will lose her car and her job.
She said: “Personal independence payment is a complete misdemeanour, because they are taking our independence away.”
The refusal of PIP has even caused people to take their own lives. In 2015, Stephen Smith, a man with a history of depression and anxiety, was refused PIP despite previously being awarded DLA. Due to a DWP error, Stephen killed himself.
There are many more stories of the horrors of the assessment process, cancelled appointments, unnecessary pain, anxiety and mental health issues.
PIP is rotten to the core. It should be scrapped or at the very least handled “in-house” and taken away from private companies making millions in profit out of people’s misery, leaving them in a position of potential homelessness and without cash support for months on end.
DPAC, Winvisible and the Mental Health Resistance Network are holding actions against PIP tomorrow in 16 towns and cities so far across Britain.
We will also have an online action for those unable to get to one of the demos — join us to show your anger at vicious PIP, rotten to the core. For details visit mstar.link/pip-fightback
Debbie Jolly is a co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).