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Benefit Eligibility Assessment: People with Disabilities

Volume 615: debated on Monday 17 October 2016

7. What steps his Department is taking to improve the benefit eligibility assessment process for people with disabilities. (906583)

The Department is committed to improving continuously assessments for all our benefits, and we have responded to a range of recommendations from a number of independent reviews. As part of our continuous review of the work capability assessment, we will be consulting on further possible improvements in the forthcoming Green Paper.

I welcome the Government’s recent announcement. May I ask the Department to consider creating an individual health statement for each disability claimant to give every local and national agency that is responsible for paying benefits access to the relevant information, so that we can end the practice of repetitive form-filling and evidence gathering? That would reduce individual stress on the vulnerable and reduce bureaucracy in our essential public services.

That is a sensible suggestion, and I thank my hon. Friend for making it. If we can use all the data that Government hold—for example, care plans or evidence for someone’s war pension—better to reduce stress and bureaucracy for individuals and arrive more quickly at a good result on the assessment, we should do so.

How confident is the Minister of the robustness of emergency payments for disabled people who lose their ESA or PIP? What would she say to my constituent who suffers from chronic lymphoedema? He wrote to me two weeks ago, having lost his benefit:

“I can’t seem to concentrate on what I should do. I have no money at all. My electricity and my gas have run out. As for food I don’t know what to do.”

How can we have a system in which people are left in such a predicament?

I am sorry to hear of the circumstances of the hon. Lady’s constituent. Enormous numbers of decisions are made on ESA, PIP and on all sorts of other benefits. In some cases, the wrong decision is taken and it is overturned on appeal. We need to concentrate on ensuring that we arrive at the right decision in the first place. That has been our focus over the last few weeks, and we are doing a lot of work to ensure that medical and other evidence is submitted earlier in the process so that such circumstances do not arise. I would be very happy to look at the situation of the hon. Lady’s constituent.