Our policy is developed by utilising service user panels. Provision is strictly monitored and measured by independent audit, and the provider is held to account through the contract that we have with them.
For the fourth year in a row, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority has said that the roll-out of the personal independence payment project is
“in doubt with major risks…apparent in a number of key areas.”
What action is the Minister taking to address the urgent problems with the PIP assessment, which is causing further hardship to disabled people trying to access vital support?
I start by pointing out that PIP is a vast improvement on what went before. It is a more targeted benefit and it takes into account a whole raft of other conditions, such as mental health and sensory conditions, not just physical disability. It is a vast step forward in that respect. We cannot rest on our laurels, however. We must continually improve, and there is a robust improvement process, based on user and claimant feedback, which looks at the assessment and also at record keeping and a raft of other areas.
Let us examine that claim. My constituent Leila Kennedy lives with dwarfism, and her Motability car was removed from her after a PIP assessment. She had to use public transport, which she was unable to do, and she lost her job as a result. Does the Minister really think that Government policy is delivering compassionate outcomes in such cases?
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will write to me with further details of that case. Under PIP, more people are entitled to use the Motability scheme, but clearly we want to make sure that any decision taken on a PIP assessment is the right one. A key part of that, as we know from looking at cases that have been overturned on appeal, is getting the evidence submitted earlier in the process.
Reports suggest that Capita rewards its assessors on the basis of how many assessments they complete every month, which leads to rushed assessments where applicants are not given enough time to describe how their condition affects them daily. What is the Minister doing to ensure that applicants are given enough time and that such a reward system is not operating?
I thank the hon. Lady for her question because it gets to the heart of what I have just described. If we do not have a good-quality assessment and good quality in all the evidence needed early in the process, we will end up causing distress to an individual who has to go to mandatory reconsideration or an appeal. We are doing work in the Department to address this, including giving a bit more flexibility for certain cases at that early stage, with the hope that the evidence we need will then be submitted at that stage. That is recent work, and we are rolling it out at the moment.
For those with a mental health condition, the PIP assessment has transformed opportunities. Under disability living allowance, only 22% accessed the highest rate of benefit; yet under PIP, the figure is 68%. With more people with mental health conditions being identified, what more can be done to signpost them to the wider support of the NHS, charities and the Government’s pilots?
I thank my hon. Friend for the work he did at the Department on these issues. He is absolutely right that mental health now has the priority it needs, and that PIP is delivering for such people. I would give him one example, which is the work we are doing to build on the excellent work that he did with the Disability Confident scheme. We have further beefed up the scheme, which will give employers a general grounding in these matters, and act as a platform for organisations such as Mind and others that can offer bespoke advice.
Most Members in this House will have someone come along to their advice surgery every week with a problem about PIP. The area that worries me most is Motability, because people come to my surgery who are clearly going to win at the tribunal stage, but their Motability is removed right at the beginning of the process. Can we not look at a change of policy, whereby the Motability stays until all the appeal processes have been concluded, which would be a great help to many people?
I thank my hon. Friend for that question. Historically, we have not paid benefit during an appeal. The key to cracking this is to ensure that the assessment is done correctly. I would point out to him that the mandatory reconsideration process would be over before the person had to return the vehicle.