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Personal Independence Payments

Volume 587: debated on Monday 3 November 2014

8. When he plans to begin the assessment of existing recipients of disability living allowance for eligibility for personal independence payment. (905810)

We have consistently said that we would take a controlled approach to introducing PIP, continuously learning lessons as we went along. That is why we have introduced reassessments of existing disability living allowance claimants in a phased way, beginning from last October.

Is it indeed quite an inheritance that the new Minister has on his plate in this area. In June, I told his predecessor about a constituent of mine who had received arrears of more than £5,000, having waited 10 months for his PIP assessment. Given the difficulties we have heard about this afternoon, will he consider the time frame for the transfer of existing DLA recipients to PIP and waiting until such a time as his Department is able to give them a timely decision about their entitlement?

I agree with what my hon. Friend says; we are conducting the further natural reassessment roll-out only in those areas where I am confident we have the capacity to undertake the claims in a timely way. We are doing it in a carefully controlled way. The majority of DLA claimants will not be invited to claim PIP until 2015 onwards under a programme of managed reassessment.

Thousands and thousands of DLA recipients are feeling the effect of the unjust bedroom tax. What does the Minister intend to do to raise discretionary housing payments to help alleviate the problems felt by people on DLA?

The hon. Gentleman is right to mention discretionary housing payments. I looked into this matter quite carefully. We have been very generous in the amount of money that we have given to local authorities. Indeed, many local authorities have not spent the money we have made available to them. We also made available further funds for which local authorities could bid and, again, not all of that money was spent. So we have given local authorities the wherewithal to use discretionary housing payment to support those who they think have a good case following the removal of the spare room subsidy.

One of the advantages of having two assessment companies is that the Minister should be able to make performance comparisons between them. Has my hon. Friend assessed the performance of both companies, and is there any good practice that can be carried from one to the other?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. I look at the performance of both providers, Atos and Capita, and he is right—where we see good practice and particular things that work with one, we want to make sure we share that information with the other. Having the two is helpful for the Department in assessing their performance.

I support the point made by the hon. Member for Chippenham (Duncan Hames). Why are some of my constituents from Telford awaiting a PIP assessment being told that they will have to go to Stoke-on-Trent? It is an 80-mile round trip. One of the journey recommendations provided to one of my constituents involved sitting on a railway platform overnight waiting for a train. This is a disgrace. When is the Minister going to sort it out?

Under the guidance that we give assessment providers for journey times, no one should have to travel for more than 90 minutes on public transport to go to an assessment, so if that was what the hon. Gentleman’s constituent was told, that was clearly a mistake. Ninety minutes is the maximum time people are supposed to have to travel by public transport, and for no longer.