New disability benefit PIP leaves half of Havering claimants with no financial help
- Credit: PA WIRE
A welfare campaigner has called “scandalous” the fact that almost half of the people who applied for a new disability benefit in the borough were turned down.
Isobel Whittaker, a barrister and campaigner on welfare issues, who protested in Havering about the way disabled people are assessed for benefits, said the figures were “very low” and warned this could lead to “dangerous situations”, where people’s lives could be put at risk.
Since October, the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which replaces the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), has been rolled out across Havering, helping to cover some of the extra costs caused by long-term illnesses or disabilities.
By March, 3,445 people had applied for PIP but the benefit was awarded in only 1,703 cases, while 1,662 people were turned down and 73 applications were withdrawn, a Recorder Freedom of Information (FoI) request has revealed.
In January, 700 appeal cases were being processed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
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Rosemary Relf, 56, of Rush Green, who suffers from a thyroid problem which has left her with a weakened immune system and a growing incapacity to walk, was awarded “lifetime” disability benefits in 2012, but after a PIP assessment was refused any financial aid.
Mrs Relf and her husband Brian have lost a total of £115.50 a week of disability benefit and carer’s allowance and the couple are now waiting for the ruling of an independent tribunal.
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A comparison of government data shows the award rate has dropped from more than 60 per cent in spring 2014 to under 40pc in January this year and the number of cases being taken to tribunal – the final appeal option – shot up from 5,427 in December 2015 to 16,249 in March this year, with the figures covering the whole of the UK.
Ms Whittaker explained reports from GPs no longer constitute the main evidence for the benefits and claimants are asked to fill their own ability forms, which, she argued, can be “harmful” for people with mental health issues or who fail to present clearly what they can and cannot do.
Co-chairman of the Disability Benefits Consortium, Phil Reynolds, said: “In too many cases disabled people are being inappropriately turned down for PIP, because of inaccurate assessments and inadequate knowledge of long-term conditions and disabilities amongst some assessors.”
He added that losing this financial help could have a “devastating” impact, such as people losing access to disabled parking or having to return their Motability cars, making it harder for them to remain independent.
An Atos Healthcare spokeswoman said assessors were DWP-accredited and had “thorough training”, particularly on assessing mental health conditions.
While Ms Whittaker believes that not all claimants have the energy and resources to appeal, on average, 61 per cent of people who take their case to tribunal have their decision overturned.
A DWP spokesman said: “Decisions on eligibility for Personal Independence Payment are made after consideration of all the evidence, including an assessment and information provided by the claimant and their GP.
“Since April 2013, just five per cent of decisions have gone to appeal and only two per cent of all PIP decisions have been overturned at appeal.”