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Personal Independence Payments: Mental Health

Volume 633: debated on Monday 18 December 2017

11. What assessment his Department has made of the effect of the personal independence payments application process on people with mental health issues. (902988)

The claiming process for personal independence payment was co-produced with disabled people, carers and organisations supporting them, including mental health charities. We will continue to explore opportunities to monitor and improve the process, making use of customer testing and engagement with disability groups.

The charity, Rethink Mental Illness, surveyed PIP claimants, and found that two in five felt that delays in decisions led to deterioration in their mental health, and that one in five had to take higher doses of medication to cope with the increased stress. Does the Minister think that that is acceptable, and will she look at the findings of the survey and review the assessment process in the light of them?

I pay tribute to Rethink and its campaign—I have read the findings of its survey with interest—as well as to Mind. These organisations are key stakeholders that help the Department to get these things right. No, I do not want people to be stressed by the process, which is why we are implementing a wide range of reforms that we have worked on with our stakeholders. We will make a paper-based decision wherever possible—wherever the information enables us to—and people also have the opportunity to be assessed at home.

Constituents and support agencies in North West Durham have told me that the assessment to determine entitlement to PIP is too black and white, and is not able truly to capture a person’s day-to-day life with all the nuances that involves, especially when assessing mental health problems. This is leading to traumatic and humiliating experiences, and claims being refused to people who really need them. Will the Minister please look into this process in detail for those with mental health problems?

I thank the hon. Lady for her comment. We keep the process under constant review, and we have it independently assessed to make sure that, if there are any problems at all, we will work to overcome them. However, I can assure her that, compared with the previous benefit—disability living allowance—many more PIP recipients with mental health conditions are getting the enhanced rates.