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Personal Independence Payments

Volume 617: debated on Monday 21 November 2016

14. What steps his Department is taking to ensure that personal independence payment assessments are undertaken fairly and appropriately. (907344)

Our policy is designed by service-user panels, provision is strictly monitored and measured by independent audit, and the provider is held to account through our contract with it.

Citizens Advice and the mental health charity Mind told the Public Accounts Committee in March that private contractor assessors were comprehensively failing claimants with mental health issues, so what progress has been made since in the recruitment of registered mental health nurses by healthcare assessment providers to ensure that claimants with mental health issues get the support they need?

Since then we have introduced a number of new measures, including improved training and additional recruitment. We are also monitoring to ensure those doing assessments are referring to mental health services if they feel that that is required.

Fourteen-year old Olivia in North Cornwall is the primary carer for her mother, who has multiple sclerosis. PIP assessments create uncertainty for Olivia; no one else in her household is able to work or to care for her mother. Will my hon. Friend applaud young carers such as Olivia? In the light of the DWP’s proposed end to reassessment for people with long-term illnesses, will she consider extending this to people who rely on children to care for them until such time as those children have finished further education?

I certainly pay tribute to Olivia and the thousands like her who do a physically and emotionally demanding job for their loved ones. We recognise the principle. We have made changes to ESA reassessments and the Green Paper affords us the opportunity to look at how that principle could be applied to PIP. It might be to my hon. Friend’s constituent’s advantage to have further PIP assessments because her needs might increase, but there is an opportunity to have a much more streamlined process, which I hope the Green Paper will deliver.

Does the Minister not realise how wildly wrong some of these assessments can be? I had a constituent with cerebral palsy who was told that he would get no mobility component with his personal independence payment, meaning that he risked losing his car and therefore his ability to work. Are any financial sanctions imposed on the contractor for getting such assessments so wildly wrong and hence threatening people’s jobs?

I think the hon. Lady’s question related to PIP. We have also introduced other ways in which we can measure a contractor’s performance, including the use of clinical data. Whether in relation to PIP or to ESA, we need to ensure that the evidence needed to make these judgments is submitted early in the process. We are doing some work to ensure that that happens, and it is improving things considerably.