About 280,000 disability living allowance claims have been reassessed over the past six months. Reassessments are comprised of super-sessions, where someone reports changes in their circumstances; renewals of fixed-term awards, which are by far the biggest; and reconsiderations.
A constituent of mine had to wait two years to have his DLA appeal reassessed, causing him immense hardship. They found in his favour. He is not alone. Newcastle citizens advice bureau and the Newcastle welfare rights service each see two or three new cases of DLA delays every single week. How will the Minister ensure that the roll-out of the personal independence payment will not lead to the same vulnerable groups being subjected to more delays?
I have the figures from 2007-08 and they are exactly the same as those for DLA this year, whether that applies to appeals or to people wanting to make new claims. That was the main reason for introducing PIP. It is about clarity and certainty for both the claimant and the assessors, so that we can reduce any delays in reassessments and appeals.
The Minister will be aware that the opportunity to have one’s DLA reconsidered at the end of a fixed-term award is, actually, not an opportunity to cut the DLA. Will she join me in welcoming the fact that more than 12,000 people in the past year have had their DLA award increased at the end of a fixed term? Is that not something that the Opposition ought to bear in mind when they criticise us for cutting DLA?
On 13 December 2012, the Minister announced that there would be
“a significantly slower reassessment timetable”—[Official Report, 13 December 2012; Vol. 555, c. 464.]
for the PIP process—the replacement for DLA—which I welcomed. However, did that significantly slower reassessment timetable impact on the contracts that were signed in August 2012 with Capita and Atos on a different timetable? Will there be any significant financial reassessments as a result of the new timetable? Did she consider whether the changes were significant enough to necessitate re-tendering the contract?
We did indeed slow down the roll-out of the reassessments, having listened to the consultation and what various organisations and charities said, but we did not consider that to be significant change to the contract, so we are working closely with both Atos and Capita to ensure the smooth running of the roll-out.