We are committed to ensuring that people receive high-quality, fair and accurate assessments. The Department robustly monitors providers’ performance and independently audits assessments. Both providers are now increasing clinical support across their centres and providing more personalised coaching for their healthcare professionals.
The Department seems to conclude that everything is hunky-dory with PIP assessments, just as it did—erroneously—with work capability assessments. The Disability News Service says it has more than 200 cases of inaccurate PIP assessments, and I have come across plenty in Southwark, including that of my constituent, Tarik Ali. Tarik was assessed as having no evidence of hearing loss, despite being deaf in one ear. He was awarded no points for needing support to manage medication, despite the fact that he sees a GP every three weeks and that his carer manages his medication on a daily basis. There was no mention of Behçet’s syndrome in his assessment, despite its having been included in five hospital reports, his GP records and his medication prescription. When will the Minister stop cutting vital help to genuinely disabled people, stop wasting taxpayers’ money on inaccurate assessments and fake mandatory reconsiderations, and finally end the glaring inaccuracies in PIP assessments?
Currently, 3% of caseload is overturned on appeal, and in the last quarter the number of cases having to go to appeal dropped by 22%. We have introduced changes to get evidence in earlier and to improve the quality of assessments, but we will respond to all the things that Paul Gray has set out in his review this autumn.
We have opportunities to reduce the burden on individuals going through assessments through what we are trying to do with the work capability assessment and by enabling information used in health care and in ESA assessments to reduce the burden on people getting PIP assessments—and, hopefully, doing away with the volume of assessments that people have. However, I say to the hon. Lady that currently 3% of cases are overturned on appeal. We are doing our best to ensure that the right decision is made earlier, and that seems to be bearing fruit in the numbers of people going to appeal.
In my experience as a GP, the impact of the conditions of people with anxiety and even agoraphobia is often not adequately assessed within PIP. I welcome the introduction of mental health nurses to the process, but how will the culture of the assessment be changed so that people’s physical and mental health capabilities are assessed holistically?
One of the changes that we have recently made with both providers is that before they turn to the healthcare evidence and the other things that have traditionally formed part of the assessment, they talk with the individual about the impact of the condition on their day-to-day life. That, I think, has improved the assessment dramatically.
PIP is causing misery for thousands of disabled people. Two disabled people who were in my surgery this Saturday are threatened with destitution because the money that they got as part of their lifetime award under the disability living allowance was stopped following their PIP assessment. The conditions they have had since birth have not and will not change. Why will the Government not exempt people with lifelong or progressive conditions from ongoing PIP assessments, as they are doing with the work capability assessments?
The hon. Lady is right that we have made that change in employment and support allowance. I give her one example: about 84% of people with motor neurone disease are on the highest rates for PIP, but 16% are not. It is therefore perfectly possible that someone will not be receiving the maximum amount of support but that as their condition progresses, they will need additional support. As I said earlier, we are trying to reduce the burden on individuals going through assessments, but some people will still need to have assessments for PIP because their need becomes greater.