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Personal Independence Payments

Volume 573: debated on Monday 13 January 2014

5. What recent assessment he has made of Capita’s timescales for processing medical assessments for personal independence payments and providing them to his Department. (901897)

As I said earlier, the end to end journey time for people claiming PIP is too long—within the DWP as well as with Capita and Atos in the hon. Lady’s constituency. More than anything else, this is to do with quality issues that we want to get right. There is no point in having a very quick journey if we get the wrong decision.

I thank the Minister for that reply. My constituent Mr Weaver applied for PIP in June, and Mrs Curran did so in July. They both had their assessments with Capita in August. The assessments have still not reached the DWP, which is totally unacceptable. Legitimate claims are being denied, which cannot be good money for the Government and cannot be a quality service. This company is inept, inefficient and not fit to carry out the work it is asked to do.

I thank the hon. Lady and we will obviously look into the individual cases she mentioned. It is absolutely crucial to get it right and to get the quality right so that when benefits are claimed, those who deserve them get them and those who do not deserve them do not. Face-to-face assessment is a crucial part of this and I have said previously, that fewer than 6% of those who claimed benefit were ever assessed.

Is it not the appeals process against the initial decision that is slowing the process down? Will my hon. Friend use his good offices and those of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to raise this issue as a matter of urgency with the Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. What often happens is that evidence is produced on the day of the tribunal that the Department’s officials have never seen before. In some cases, evidence has understandably come forward at that stage when we might not have known anything about it. We are looking closely at that as well as at getting more information from the judges.

Since June, I have had five cases brought to my attention at my constituency surgery where applications for PIPs have been made yet not one of them has been paid. The assessments have been carried out, yet DWP employees are telling people being treated for cancer to phone up and chase Capita. Will the Minister do something about it because this system is collapsing?

Those with terminal illnesses are; cancer is not always terminal. I know this is an emotive subject, but fortunately plenty of people in this country live through their cancer. I will look carefully into what the hon. Gentleman says, but it is not the case that no benefits are getting through. The vast majority are. I see cases at my surgery the same as others do, but the vast majority are getting their benefits. We will, however, work on the quality.

A GP whose patient has particularly complex medical and learning disability needs is still waiting for an assessment and a decision many months after making his application. Why are doctors’ letters not accepted?

Even the last Administration had the sense to recognise that GPs were very close to their patients, and that it was therefore necessary to obtain evidence from other health experts as well, especially consultants. However, the assessment relates not to an illness or other condition, but to a person’s capacity to work. That is what is important.